H.E. Catherine Raper, Ambassador of Australian Embassy in Korea delivers a speech during a parliamentary forum on Korea-Australia cooperation pump their fists at South Korea’s parliament in Seoul on July 19. Photo courtesy of Korean National Assembly

Two countries agree to further enhance economic and defense ties

South Korea and Australia agreed on July 19 to further enhance economic and defense ties between the two countries to cope with common security and economic challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Hosted by Rep. Yoon Jae-ok, floor leader of the governing People’s Power Party (PPP), a parliamentary forum on Korea-Australia cooperation took place with the attendance of high-profile politicians and government leaders from both nations.

Among the participants were Rep. Kim Ki-hyun, leader of the PPP; Rep. Han Ki-ho of PPP, chairman of the Parliamentary Defense Committee; H.E. Catherine Raper, Ambassador of Australian Embassy in Korea; Ms. Oh Young-ju, 2nd Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Mr. Lee Seung-beom, Director of International Policy of the Ministry of National Defense.

A delegation of Australian parliamentary members, led by Labor MP Jerome Laxale, also joined the forum, while visiting Korea as part of parliamentary exchange programs. 

“Both South Korea and Australia are important trading partners and are both key allies of the United States,” said Professor Kim Woo-sang of Political Science and Diplomacy at Yonsei University in Seoul. Kim served as Korean Ambassador to Australia from 2008-2011. 

“Cooperation between South Korea and Australia is a key to responding to the threats posed by China and North Korea,” Kim said, calling for plans to establish a robust defense and security framework between the two countries, modeling after the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) operated by Japan and its allies, including Australia, to help facilitate shared military trainings and operations. 

As a main presenter, Professor Park Jae-jeok at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies stressed that Seoul and Canberra should expand and diversify cooperation further to a variety of fields such as natural gas, hydrogen, cyber-security, science, and aerospace, leveraging the bilateral defense and security cooperation. 

“As open, trading nations, both Korea and Australia face growing pressures to mitigate the geoeconomic risks and challenges associated with their dependence on China,” Park said.

“In response, both countries should pursue an economic diversification strategy aimed at reducing their external economic risks from China.” 

South Korea is Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner and an important provider of manufactured goods, such as electronics, machinery, and capital goods.

Likewise, Australia’s major exports to Korea, such as energy, raw materials, and food products, are increasingly critical to the Korean economy.  

Participants at the forum, in particular, were paying attention to the positive effects of construction of Hanwha’s Armored Vehicle Center of Excellence (H-ACE) in Geelong, Victoria, as it is expected to serve as a cornerstone for upgrading the bilateral partnership to a strategic alliance in another level.  

Hanwha Aerospace, the leading aerospace and defense manufacturer in Korea, invested about $160 million (200 billion won) to build the H-ACE for local production of armored vehicles and self-propelled howitzers.  

Built on a 150,000-square-meter site near Avalon Airport in Geelong for completion by 2024, the H-ACE is to have a 32,000-square-meter manufacturing plant; a 1.5-kilometer-long test-driving track; a firing range; and an R&D center.

The construction is expected to create more about 600 jobs, with greater job creation and economic ripple effects in the long run. 

“The need to work together in the region as liked minded partners is key, and to make sure that we have the capabilities to do so,” H.E. Catherine Raper, Australian Ambassador to Korea, said. 

“In that light, we very much value our relationship with Hanwha Aerospace,” said the diplomat. “Their facility is in Geelong, which is being built for self-propelled howitzers and it’s coming along well as I understanded. Production is underway at Changwon at the moment and will soon move to Geelong. This is a very important success story for Australia-Korea cooperation.”

Asked about the prospect of the Land 400 Phase 3 program for next-generation infantry fighting vehicles, for which HDA’s Redback IFV is under consideration, the Australian diplomat expressed hope for working with the Korean defense industry despite the reduction in volumes in the wake of the DSR.   

“Very happy to keep talking to Hanwha about that project going forward as we value that relationship highly,” she concluded.  

Mr. Lee Seung-beom, Director of International Policy at MND, emphasized production of Redback IFVs in Australia would be a huge win for both sides. 

“Since the signing of the AS9 SPH contract with Australia in 2021, construction of a Korean-invested production facility is underway, which is the first overseas defense production base built by Korea,” Lee said.

“We can achieve many things with this local production facility for Australia, such as technology transfer, continuous job creation, joint international marketing, and securing stable supply chains to support the defense capabilities of both nations.”  

He continued, “We are pursuing defense cooperation not just for selling weapons, but for sharing our experience and knowhow of dealing with threats, trainings, operating weapons systems and others with partner nations.” 

Taking advantage of core technologies of the ROK K21 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the Redback was developed to meet the operational requirements of the Australian Defense Force.

The tracked vehicle features several innovative technologies such as the composite rubber track; the Iron Vision see-through helmet mounted display; the Iron Fist hard-kill active protection system; the In-arm type hydro-pneumatic suspension unit; the offboard Health and Usage Management System; and the Solar Sigma Shield technology.

Shown above is the RedBack IFV made by Hanwha Aerospace. The armored vehicle is one of two candidates to become Australia’s next-generation infantry fighting vehicles. Photo courtesy of Hanwha Aerospace
The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.