A massive parade of military hardware on the Korean peninsula is not exactly an unusual sight. North Korea often tries to show off its military might. On Tuesday, though, the parade was not in Pyongyang — it was on the streets of Seoul, South Korea, which showcased its arsenal of advanced weaponry.
The weather didn’t exactly agree with the proceedings, but South Korean tanks and other vehicles rolled down the streets of the rain-soaked capital. About 4,000 South Korean troops took part in the parade, accompanied by about 300 U.S. soldiers. The event, the first of its kind in a decade, was held to mark the 75th Armed Forces Day, commemorating the founding of South Korea’s armed forces.
The parade followed a formal Armed Forces Day ceremony, which was held at a military airport near Seoul. It drew about 6,700 soldiers and 200 weapons assets – the largest such ceremony since 2013.
Thousands braved the weather to see the troops and equipment head through the heart of the South Korean capital. The route passed city hall and the historic Gwanghwamun Square. A small number of protesters were present, claiming that the government was fanning tensions. They could be seen with a banner that read, “Stop arms race.”
A flyover of F-35 Lightning II stealth aircraft along with the domestically developed KF-21 had to be scrapped due to the poor weather.
The official Armed Forces Day is actually on Oct. 1, but the Chuseok holiday was extended to form a six-day break until next Tuesday. It comes as tensions between the two Koreas remain high.
Six Primary Equipment Categories
The parade spotlighted six primary equipment categories for the South Korean Armed Forces: unmanned systems, Army TIGER, mechanized forces, artillery, protection, and amphibious forces. The categories were meant to offer a comprehensive view of the armed forces’ state-of-the-art transformation.
Seoul has vowed to build a stronger military to thwart provocation from Pyongyang.
“After looking at your imposing march today, I believe our people would trust you and have faith in our national security,” President Yoon Suk Yeol told cheering soldiers at the end of the ceremony in a central Seoul plaza, the Associated Press reported. “I’ll always support you together with our people.”
Since taking office last year, Yoon has taken a hawkish stance on North Korea and has used displays of weapons and military drills as a cornerstone of his strategy to counter Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. The South Korean leader vowed there would be a swift reaction to any aggression from the North, and he talked up military ties with Washington and Tokyo.
The parade took place just a week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un returned from a trip to Russia. Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to boost military cooperation.
A South Korean Arms Show
Tuesday’s event wasn’t only meant to boost morale at home or to send a warning to the North.
It also allowed South Korea to show off its domestically built military platforms. Yoon has previously said that his goal is to make South Korea one of the world’s top four arms exporters. Though it still has a ways to go, Seoul has made significant progress, with $7 billion of defense exports in 2021.
Though it did rain on Yoon’s parade, the event meant to show the world that South Korea is a military powerhouse, and a serious arms exporter as well.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.