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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

South Korean Chemical Weapons

An unidentified country known in OPCW publications as “A State Party” is widely acknowledged to be South Korea. "A State Party" successfully completed their chemical weapons destruction programs in 2008. South Korea ratified the CWC treaty in 1997 and declared its chemical weapon stockpile and a production facility. The details of this declaration do not have to be made public. Global Green USA estimated the size of South Korea's chemical weapons stockpile was 3,126 metric tons. Six countries - Albania, India, Libya, Russia, South Korea, and the United States - declared chemical weapons stockpiles under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

In a step towards the global elimination of chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty that requires the destruction of all chemical weapons stockpiles worldwide, South Korea became the second country to destroy its declared chemical weapons stockpile. According to various sources, the South Korean military devised methods to destroy CW munitions at a disposal site in Yongdong-kun, North Ch'ungch'ong Province. The country beat its December 31, 2008 deadline by at least three months. The accomplishment, which took place in June 2008, was not announced publicly because South Korea had requested full confidentiality under the Chemical Weapons Convention. South Korea is referred to officially as "the other state party," or "a state party" at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the implementing and inspection agency for the Chemical Weapons Convention.

It should also be noted that South Korea has the infrastructure and technical capability to build chemical weapons fairly easily. Korean chemical industry production is estimated to be 6 percent to 10 percent of U.S. production or approximately $35 billion in 2000. Major product categories included in the chemicals and al l iedp roducts subsecior are basic chemicals, such as industrial organic and inorganic chemicals; and specialty chemicals and chemical products such as pigments, dyes, fertilizers, plastics materials, pharmaceuticals, soaps, cosmetics, toiletries, paints, and pesticides.

Korea has exhibited a higher average annual growth rate (8 percent to 10 percent) than the United States (6 percent) except during the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. The Korean chemical industry is heavily weighted toward production of petrochemical, related organic intermediates, and resins for plastics materials. According to the Korea Petrochemical Industry Association, the category "petrochemicals" includes a range of items from beginning petrochemical feedstocks (e.g., benzene, ethylene, propylene) through products such as polyethylene resins, ethylene glycol, synthetic fibers and synthetic rubber.

The industry was noticeably affected by the Asian economic problems of 1997-98. Plans to implement significant financial reforms and a development program for Korean production facilities could not be completed owing to insufficient capitalization and the rapidly changing market situation. Korean exports in this sector rose by roughly 46 percent to $17 billion during 1995-2000, and consisted primarily of petrochemicals. Korea's export markets are primarily regional and include China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan.lB8 Korean imports declined significantly following the Asian financial crisis. However, by 2000, import levels had rebounded to the pre-crisis level of nearly $16 billion. U.S. exports to Korea are composed mainly of organic chemicals and plastics resins.

R&D is a particular advantage in certain segments of the chemicals industry that are highly dependent upon new products for growth, such as innovative pharmaceuticals. US industry sources indicate that Korean pharmaceutical firms have often produced goods based on expired patents of U.S. and EU firms. In general, the Korean chemical industry is regionally competitive within Asian markets, although in specific product areas, such as petrochemicals, the Korean producers are attempting to become globally competitive by increasing capital investment and developing new world-class faci1ities.

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Page last modified: 21-09-2012 16:26:21 ZULU