Summary: Non-signatory South Korea acknowledges humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, but says it cannot consider acceding to the convention until the situation with North Korea is resolved. South Korea participated in a meeting of the convention in 2015. It abstained from voting on a key United Nations (UN) resolution promoting the convention in December 2017.
South Korea has not used cluster munitions, but it has produced and exported them. It possesses a stockpile of cluster munitions, but has not provided any information on the quantity and types stockpiled.
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
In October 2017, South Korea reiterated its long-held position that it “sympathizes with the objectives and purposes” of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but cannot join “owing to the security situation on the Korean peninsula.” Before 2015, South Korea rarely commented on its position on the convention. In 2009, South Korea stated that “the unique security situation on the Korean peninsula” means that it was “unable to take an active stance” on the convention.
The South Korean Ministry of Defense adopted a directive on cluster munitions in 2008 that requires it only acquire cluster munitions equipped with “safety activation devices that will not result in more than a one per cent failure rate.” The directive also requires South Korea to work towards “the development of an alternative weapon system that could replace cluster munitions over the long term.”
South Korea did not participate in any meetings of the Oslo Process that resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions. However, it attended the convention’s Signing Conference in Oslo in December 2008 as an observer and made a statement.
South Korea also attended the Sixth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in 2016 as an observer, but did not make a statement. This was its first and to date only participation in a meeting of the convention.
South Korea abstained from voting on a key UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution promoting implementation and universalization of the convention in December 2017. It abstained from the vote on previous UNGA resolutions on the convention in 2015 and 2016.
South Korea has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions expressing outrage at the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2017. It has also voted in favor of Human Rights Council (HRC) resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in March 2018. South Korea voted in favor of a June 2015 UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that also expressed concern at evidence of cluster munition use in Darfur, Sudan as well as a May 2014 UNSC resolution that expressed concern at the use of cluster munitions in South Sudan.
South Korea is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty.
South Korea is a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). It supported efforts to conclude a new CCW protocol on cluster munitions, which failed in 2011, effectively ending CCW deliberations on cluster munitions and leaving the Convention on Cluster Munitions as the sole multilateral instrument to specifically address the weapons. South Korea has not proposed any more CCW work on cluster munitions since 2011.
South Korea has stated on several occasions that it has never used cluster munitions.
Production and export
South Korea has produced and exported rockets, bombs, and projectiles containing submunitions. It has licensed the production of artillery projectiles containing submunitions in Pakistan. South Korea licensed the production of cluster munitions from the United States (US).
However, in May 2017, in response to a request for updated information from a local NGO, South Korea stated that no cluster munitions were manufactured or exported during 2016.
Previously, in 2015, South Korea said it could not release information on its cluster munition exports and said it “has not established moratorium policy” in response to calls to formally commit to stop exporting cluster munitions.
In 2014, South Korea said it produces artillery-delivered cluster munitions. In 2005, the Ministry of National Defense said that “South Korea stopped production of old types of cluster munitions,” and the “cluster munitions currently in production have a high level of reliability and most are equipped with [self-destruct] mechanisms.”
Two South Korean companies have produced cluster munitions:
- Hanwha has produced M261 Multi-Purpose Submunition rockets for the Hydra-70 air-to-ground rocket system, as well as KCBU-58B cluster bombs. In 2012, South Korea informed the Monitor that Hanwha produced 42,800 dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) extended-range (base bleed) 155mm artillery projectiles in 2011.
- Poongsan has advertised a 155mm projectile containing 88 submunitions designated DPICM TP, and another 155mm projectile with submunitions designated DPICM K305. In 2009, Poongsan listed two types of 155mm artillery projectiles that contain submunitions: K308 DPICM TP, containing 88 K224 submunitions, and K310 DPICM B/B, containing 49 K221 submunitions.
Poongsan entered into a licensed production agreement with Pakistan Ordnance Factories in 2004 to co-produce K310 155mm extended-range (base bleed) DPICM projectiles in Pakistan.
In 2008, Hanwha apparently exported an unknown quantity of M261 Multi-Purpose Submunition rockets (each containing nine M73 submunitions) to Pakistan.
Local company, LIG Nex1, advertised a missile system designated Haeseong II for the South Korean Navy, and Sea Dragon by LIG Nex1 at a military trade exhibition in Busan in October 2017. According to a DAPA press release in April 2017, the missile is equipped with a submunition warhead capable of “striking an area covering the equivalent of two football fields.” It is not clear which company produces the submunitions used in this weapons system.
The US concluded a licensing agreement with South Korea in 2001 for production of DPICM submunitions for M26 rockets used with the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).
A 2017 report by PAX lists 27 South Korean financial entities involved in investments in cluster munition producers.
South Korea has imported various types of cluster munitions from the US, including M26 rockets, M26A1 extended-range rockets, and ATACMS missiles for its MLRS launchers. Between 1993 and 1999, the US provided 393 M26A1 extended-range rocket pods, 271 M26 rocket pods, 111 ATACMS (Block-1) missiles, and 111 ATACMS (Block 1A) missiles. South Korea also stockpiles several artillery projectiles with DPICM submunitions (M483A1, M864, and M509A1) imported from the US. In 2001, the US supplied South Korea with 16 of each of the following cluster bombs: CBU-87, CBU-97, CBU-103, and CBU-105. Jane’s Information Group lists South Korea as possessing CBU-87 and Rockeye cluster bombs.
In June 2012, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of a sale of 367 CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons to South Korea at an estimated cost of US$325 million including associated parts, equipment, and logistical support. The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans these weapons, while US law permits export of CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons as this variant is supposed to result in less than 1% unexploded ordnance (UXO).In May 2014, the US Defense Department confirmed a contract to be completed by December 2016 for US company Textron Defense Systems to construct 361 cluster bomb units for foreign military sale to South Korea.
The 2008 Ministry of Defense policy directive requires that South Korea only acquire cluster munitions that are equipped with self-deactivation devices and that would not result in more than a 1% failure rate. According to a US diplomatic cable dated May 2007, a senior Ministry of National Defense official told the US that “more than 90 percent” of South Korea’s stockpile of cluster munitions were of the non-self-destructing kind and “the cost of retrofitting them would be prohibitive.”
Stockpiling and destruction
South Korea has not provided information on its stockpile of cluster munitions, which is thought to be of a significant size.
According to the May 2017 response to World Without War, South Korea did not destroy any aging or obsolete cluster munitions during 2016. In 2015, South Korea informed the Monitor that no aging cluster munitions were destroyed during 2013 or 2014. In 2012, South Korea informed the Monitor that it destroyed 27 obsolete cluster munitions in 2011.
 Before the 2015 UN General Assembly (UNGA) statement, the last time a South Korean government official directly addressed the question of its accession was when the Convention on Cluster Munitions opened for signature in December 2008 and a South Korean official reportedly told media, “We value the intent of the [convention], but considering the current relations between the North and the South, we can’t sign it.”“Facing military confrontation, South Korea clings to cluster munitions,” Mainichi Daily News, 8 December 2008. For more details on South Korea’s policy and practice regarding cluster munitions through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 217–219.
 Statement of South Korea, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 11 October 2009.
 In September 2011, Wikileaks released a United States (US) Department of State cable from January 2007 that stated that South Korea apparently considered participating in the first meeting of the Oslo Process as an observer, because it was reportedly concerned that the cluster munition “issue will be co-opted just as the landmine issue was in the Ottawa process.” “ROKG supportive of US position on cluster munitions,” US Department of State cable 07SEOUL219 dated 23 January 2007, released by Wikileaks on 1 September 2011. In September 2011, Wikileaks released five US Department of State cables from 2007 that showed that South Korean officials discussed the Oslo Process on several occasions with officials from the US government. In February 2007, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade official reportedly told US officials that the South Korean government decided against attending the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions in February 2007 because of its “understanding that the United Kingdom and the United States would not attend.” “ROKG will not attend Oslo CM conference,” US Department of State cable 07SEOUL374 dated 7 February 2007, released by Wikileaks on 1 September 2011.
 “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,”UNGA Resolution 72/54, 4 December 2017.
 “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 72/191, 19 December 2017. South Korea voted in favor of similar resolutions in 2013–2016.
 “The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” HRC Resolution 37/29, 19 March 2018. South Korea voted in favor of similar resolutions in 2013–2016.
 Response to Monitor questionnaire by Il Jae Lee, Second Secretary, Disarmament and Nonproliferation Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 4 April 2012; and statement by Amb. Dong-hee Chang, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN in Geneva, CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 7 July 2008.
 Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies response from the Inspector General, Defense Acquisition Program Administration, 31 May 2017. Regarding production, the response was, “Defense Acquisition Program Administration acquires weapons systems through research and development and purchasing. After checking with relevant program management department and contract management department, we have identified that no cluster munitions were acquired via domestic defense company from Jan. 1st 2016 to Dec. 31th 2016. Therefore, we consider that no cluster munition was produced by domestic defense company.” World Without War is the Cluster Munition Coalition’s (CMC) national partner in South Korea.
 Reply to an Official Information Disclosure Act request by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration on 11 March 2015. The reply stated, “Information on cluster munition weapons export cannot be disclosed as it falls under the category of the information subjected to non-disclosure under the subparagraph 2 (national defense and diplomatic relations) and 7 (trade secrets of corporations) of the paragraph 1 of the article 9 (Information Subject to Non-Disclosure) of the Official Information Disclosure Act.”
 During 2014, a South Korean company produced 155mm Remote Anti-Armor Munition, a cluster munition artillery shell. Reply to an Official Information Disclosure Act request by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, 11 March 2015.
 Communication from the Ministry of National Defense through the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN in Geneva, to IKV Pax Christi Netherlands, 3 June 2005.
 Both companies were excluded from investment under the Norwegian Petroleum Fund’s ethical guidelines for producing cluster munitions, Poongsan in December 2006 and Hanwha in January 2008. For more details on production by these companies, see HRW and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 219.
 Norwegian Ministry of Finance, “Recommendation on exclusion of the companies Rheinmetall AG and Hanwha Corp.,” 15 May 2007.
 Response to Monitor questionnaire by Il Jae Lee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 4 April 2012. The response also stated that Hanwha produced 6,150 227mm rockets for its MLRS launcher during the year.
 Letter from Council on Ethics for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global to the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, “Recommendation of 6 September 2006,” 6 September 2006.
 “Pakistan Ordnance Factory and S. Korean Firm Sign Ammunition Pact,” Asia Pulse (Karachi), 24 November 2006.
 See, HRW and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 219.
 “MADEX 2017: LIG Nex1 Showcasing TSLM / Sea Dragon / Haeseong II Land Attack Missile for the 1st Time,” 24 October 2017. Details provided by email from Michel Riemersma, Profundo, 14 March 2018.
 PAX, Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility (Utrecht, 23 May 2017), pp. 21–27.
 US DSCA, Department of Defense, “Notifications to Congress of Pending U.S. Arms Transfers,” “Foreign Military Sales,” “Direct Commercial Sales,” and “Excess Defense Articles” databases. M26 rockets each contain 644 submunitions, and there are six rockets to a pod. M26A1 rockets have 518 submunitions each. ATACMS-1 missiles have 950 submunitions each.
 M483A1 shells have 88 submunitions, whereas M864 have 72 submunitions.
 US DSCA, “Republic of Korea - F-15E/K Aircraft Munitions and Avionics,” Press release, 15 February 2001. It also provided 45 AGM-54 joint stand-off weapons (JSOW) bombs, but it is not known if these were the version with submunitions.
 Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 841. CBU-87 bombs have 202 submunitions, and Rockeye cluster bombs have 247 submunitions.
 “Republic of Korea – CBU-105D/B Sensor Fuzed Weapons,” DSCA News Release No. 12–23, 4 June 2012.
 The Ministry of National Defense reportedly informed the US that “the ROK military was not in a position to dismantle its current CM stockpiles, prohibit CM production or development, or replace their stockpiles with effective alternative weapon systems for at least the next 20 years.” “ROKG supports USG cluster munitions policy,” US Department of State cable07SEOUL1329 dated 7 May 2007, released by Wikileaks on 30 August 2011.
 Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies response from the Arms Control Division, Ministry of National Defense, 24 May 2017. World Without War is the CMC’s national partner in South Korea.
 Reply to an Official Information Disclosure Act request by the Ministry of National Defense, 29 April 2015.
 Response to Monitor questionnaire by Il Jae Lee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 4 April 2012. The question asked if any old or unstable cluster munitions had been destroyed during the year.