Non-signatory South Korea has acknowledged humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It last participated in a meeting of the convention in 2016. South Korea abstained from voting on a key United Nations (UN) resolution promoting the convention in December 2020.
South Korea has not used cluster munitions, but it has produced and exported them. It possesses cluster munitions, but has not shared information on the types and quantities stockpiled.
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
South Korea has acknowledged the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to join the convention. At the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in November 2020, South Korea reiterated that “owing to the unique security situation on the Korean peninsula we are not a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.”
A 2008 Ministry of Defense directive on cluster munitions requires South Korea to only acquire cluster munitions equipped with “safety activation devices that will not result in more than a one per cent failure rate” and 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 created the Convention on Cluster Munitions. United States (US) Department of State cables show that US officials met with South Korean representatives to discuss cluster munitions during the process. South Korea attended the Oslo Signing Conference in December 2008 as an observer, where it made a statement explaining that it could not sign the convention.
South Korea participated in the convention’s Sixth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in 2016 as an observer. This remains its first, and to date, only participation in a meeting of the convention. South Korea was invited, but did not attend, the first part of the convention’s Second Review Conference held virtually in November 2020.
In December 2020, South Korea abstained from voting on a key UNGA resolution that urged states outside the convention to “join as soon as possible.” It has abstained from voting on the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced in 2015. South Korea has explained its vote each year, always providing the “unique security situation on the Korean Peninsula” as the reason for its abstention.
South Korea has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2020. South Korea voted in favor of a similar Human Rights Council resolution in June 2020.
South Korea also voted in favor of a 2015 UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution expressing concern at the use of cluster munitions in Sudan, as well as a 2014 UNSC resolution expressing concern at the use of cluster munitions in South Sudan.
South Korea is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty.
South Korea is a State Party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and supported efforts to conclude a new CCW protocol on cluster munitions, which failed in 2011. This effectively ended CCW deliberations on cluster munitions, leaving the Convention on Cluster Munitions as the sole multilateral instrument to specifically address the weapon. South Korea has not proposed any further 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 cluster munitions, including rockets, bombs, and projectiles. South Korea licensed the production of cluster munitions from Pakistan and the US.
During 2020, a Ministry of Defense official wrote that no defense company in South Korea produced cluster munitions during 2020, but refused to state if any cluster munition weapons had been exported by the country during the year. Previously, South Korea said that no cluster munitions were manufactured or exported during 2016. In 2014, South Korea said it was producing artillery-delivered cluster munitions.
The Ministry of National Defense said in 2005 that South Korea had stopped production of “old types” of cluster munitions and planned to only produce cluster munitions with self-destruct features.
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 said 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.
Both companies have ties to Pakistan:
- Hanwha exported an unknown quantity of M261 rockets (each containing nine M73 submunitions) to Pakistan in 2008.
- Poongsan entered into a licensed production agreement with Pakistan Ordnance Factories in 2004 to co-produce K310 155mm DPICM projectiles in Pakistan.
Local company, LIG Nex1, advertised a missile system designated Haeseong II—also known as Sea Dragon—for the Republic of Korea Navy, at a military trade exhibition in Busan in October 2017. The missile is reportedly equipped with a submunition warhead, but 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).
South Korea has not established a moratorium policy in response to calls to formally commit to stop exporting cluster munitions.
A Ministry of Defense policy directive issued in 2008 requires that South Korea only acquire cluster munitions equipped with self-deactivation devices that would not result in more than a 1% failure rate.
Under a US sale announced in June 2012, South Korea purchased 367 CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons at an estimated cost of US$325 million, including associated parts, equipment, and logistical support. In 2014, the US Department of Defense concluded a contract to be completed by 2016 for US company Textron Defense Systems to provide 361 cluster bomb units for foreign military sale to South Korea. The CBU-105 is prohibited by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
South Korea has imported several types of cluster munitions from the US in the past, 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 has received US-made artillery projectiles containing DPICM submunitions (M483A1, M864, and M509A1). 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.
Stockpiling and destruction
South Korea has not shared information on the types and quantities of its stockpiled cluster munitions.
During 2020, a Ministry of Defense official wrote that South Korea had not destroyed any expired cluster munitions during the year of 2020.
According to a US Department of State cable, a senior Ministry of National Defense official told the US in 2007 that “more than 90 percent” of South Korea’s stockpiled cluster munitions lack self-destruct features and described the cost of retrofitting them as “prohibitive.”
 South Korea, Explanation of Vote, UN General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee, video record, 6 November 2020, 2:39:40. See also, South Korea, Explanation of vote on draft Resolution A/C.1/L.46, “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UN General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 5 November 2019. Statement of South Korea, UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 11 October 2009. In December 2008, 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.” See, “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.
 In September 2011, Wikileaks released a 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.” See, “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 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.” See, “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 75/62, 7 December 2020.
 South Korea, Explanation of vote on draft Resolution A/C.1/L.46, “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 5 November 2019. South Korea made similar statements at the UNGA in 2015–2018.
 “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 75/193, 16 December 2020. South Korea voted in favor of similar resolutions from 2013–2019.
 See, “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council Resolution 43/28, 22 June 2020.
 UN Security Council (UNSC), “Security Council, Adopting Resolution 2155 (2014), Extends Mandate of Mission In South Sudan, Bolstering Its Strength to Quell Surging Violence, SC11414,” 27 May 2014.
 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 South Korea to the UN in Geneva, to the CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Cluster Munitions, Geneva, 7 July 2008.
 Official Information Disclosure Request by World Without War, reply received from Choi Kyeong-yeon, Senior manager, Firepower program department of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Ministry of National Defense, 31 March 2021. The official declined to provide information regarding export, writing that “Import and export information between countries is classified as exemption to disclosure according to the Official Information Disclosure Act, Article 9. World Without War is a national member of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) in South Korea.
 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.”
 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 South 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.
 See, HRW and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 219.
 “Pakistan Ordnance Factory and S. Korean Firm Sign Ammunition Pact,” Asia Pulse, 24 November 2006.
 “MADEX 2017: LIG Nex1 Showcasing TSLM / Sea Dragon / Haeseong II Land Attack Missile for the 1st Time,” Navy Recognition, 24 October 2017. Details provided by email from Michel Riemersma, Profundo, 14 March 2018.
 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.”
 US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), “Republic of Korea – CBU-105D/B Sensor Fuzed Weapons,” News Release No. 12–23, 4 June 2012.
 US DSCA, “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 contain 518 submunitions each. ATACMS-1 missiles contain 950 submunitions each.
 M483A1 shells each contain 88 submunitions, whereas M864 each contain 72 submunitions.
 US DSCA press release, “Republic of Korea - F-15E/K Aircraft Munitions and Avionics,” 15 February 2001. The US 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: Jane’s Information Group, 2004), p. 841. CBU-87 bombs have 202 submunitions, and Rockeye cluster bombs have 247 submunitions.
 Official Information Disclosure Request by World Without War, reply from Lee Yoo-jung, Deputy Director, Arms Control Division, North Korea Policy Bureau, Office of National Defense Policy, Ministry of National Defense, 22 April 2021.
 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.” See, “ROKG supports USG cluster munitions policy,” US Department of State cable 07SEOUL1329 dated 7 May 2007, released by Wikileaks on 30 August 2011.