26th September 2023 – (Seoul) South Korea is set to host its first large-scale military parade in a decade on Tuesday, featuring a range of formidable weapons, including ballistic missiles and attack helicopters. This display of force comes as South Korea adopts a tougher stance against North Korea. The parade, held on Armed Forces Day, contrasts with the extravagant events organised by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, which often involve showcasing strategic weapons like intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The event, taking place in Seoul, will span the entire day and involve thousands of troops. South Korea’s indigenous tanks, self-propelled artillery, attack aircraft, and drones will be on display, alongside 300 of the 28,500 U.S. soldiers stationed in the country, according to the Defence Ministry. The highlight of the parade will be a 2km procession through Seoul’s main commercial and business district, culminating at the bustling Gwanghwamun area, the gateway to a sprawling palace in the heart of Seoul. South Korea last held a military street parade back in 2013.
The timing of this parade aligns with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s hawkish approach towards North Korea. Displaying weapons and conducting military drills have become essential elements of his strategy to counter the North’s advancing nuclear and missile programs. President Yoon has pledged a swift and decisive response to any aggression from Pyongyang and has actively reinforced the military alliance with Washington and Tokyo since assuming office last year.
The parade will commence at an airbase in Seongnam, located on the outskirts of Seoul. It will showcase various military assets, including the Hyunmoo missiles, L-SAM missile interceptors, F-35 jets, and South Korea’s first domestically developed fighter, the KF-21. The Hyunmoo missile is considered a crucial component of Seoul’s offensive capabilities against the North, while the L-SAM is designed to intercept incoming missiles at altitudes of 50 to 60km. Additionally, a joint flyover by South Korean and U.S. military aircraft will demonstrate an “upgraded” combined defense posture, as stated by the Ministry of Defence.
The parade follows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent visit to Russia, during which he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to enhance military cooperation. President Yoon has expressed concerns that if Russia assists North Korea in bolstering its weapons programs in exchange for aid for its war in Ukraine, it would be viewed as a direct provocation.