South Korean activists protest pending arms sale to Israeli military

Activists in South Korea are steadily protesting a planned arms sale by their government to the Israeli military of a T-50 fighter jet, while calling on their government to cut all military ties to Israel until it abides by international law. 

A petition has been set up by the Palestine Peace Solidarity at Seoul, South Korea website calling on the South Korean government to respect the Palestinian call for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel and cancel the sale of the jet.

In late September, activists in Seoul engaged in one-on-one conversations with passersby and street theater to call attention to Israel’s illegal occupation policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and encouraged people to oppose the arms sale.

“Israel can convert [the] T-50 for the purpose of attacking Palestinians … Please tell us that you as Korean citizens oppose arms sales to Israel,” one protester said through a bullhorn. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

This action came on the heels of a recent call to protest the sale of the T-50 jet by a broad coalition of Palestine solidarity and human rights groups in Korea. In July, as The Electronic Intifada reported, the coalition also protested the apparent strengthening of military ties between the Republic of Korea and the State of Israel, and upheld the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Fighter jet with “light ground attack capabilities would be an added bonus to the Israelis”

UPI reported on 11 October that:

Israel’s quest for a new jet trainer for the air force has moved toward South Korea’s T-50 after Korea Aerospace Industries [KAI] said it was joining with Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Israel is buying, to market the supersonic aircraft.

The air force is seeking a replacement for its fleet of Vietnam-era Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, with the T-50 Golden Eagle competing against the M-346 Master built by Alenia Aermacchi of Italy.

The Skyhawks, in service with Israel since 1967, have been used for advanced training before pilots move on to supersonic combat aircraft like the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing’s F-15.

… Lockheed’s announcement that it was working with KAI to market the T-50, “would make it easier for Israel to use military funds it receives from the U.S. to purchase the aircraft,” the [Jerusalem] Post reported.

It’s not clear, under these particular circumstances, whether the U.S. Defense Department would allow Israel to use any of the $3 billion a year it receives in U.S. military aid to acquire the Italian jet.

The Post reported last week that the Rome government was discussing with the Israeli Defense Ministry the possibility of a barter deal with Italy, in which two AWACs aircraft from state-run Israel Aerospace Industries would be exchanged for the M-346.

Defense officials in Tel Aviv say the issue could be decided by the end of the year with an order made in early 2012.

Once the selection has been made IAI and Elbit Systems, a leading maker of military electronic equipment, will establish Tor Ltd. which will handle the purchase and maintenance of the training aircraft, and lease the aircraft to the air force.

The single-engine T-50 is considered to be one of the best training aircraft in the world and by all accounts offers the highest potential performance of the two as it can function as an “F-16 Lite.”

A T-50 with a light ground attack capabilities would be an added bonus for the Israelis.


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).