Coalition forces – Republic of Korea

Coalition forces – Republic of Korea


The Republic of Korea dispatched 350 troops to Afghanistan in mid-2010 following strong requests from the United States. In 2007 South Korea withdrew a small medical and engineering group that had been deployed since 2002, following the kidnap and murder of Korean church aid workers.

Government sources

Republic of Korea

Base construction in Afghan to be delayed, Ministry of Defense, August 13, 2010
As the construction of the base that “Ashena” unit, Korean Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan, is delayed, the unit’s actual mission is scheduled to begin in October.

Ashena in Afghanistan to begin mission this month, Ministry of Defense, July 8, 2010

The Korean forces to protect members of the Provincial Reconstruction  Team in Afghanistan, named “Ashena” unit is slated to embark on its full mission this month. The Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said during a press briefing on July 7 that the unit which is temporarily stationed in a base in Bagram Air Base will start its mission around this month as soon as training to get used to local area is completed.

Reconstruction forces on its way to Afghanistan, Ministry of Defense, June 16, 2010

Korea sent an advance team of Army forces to Afghanistan on June 15, ahead of a main unit whose mission is to protect Korean aid workers in the war-torn country. An advance group of the Korean forces to protect members of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan, named “Ashena,” head toward a plane during a send-off ceremony at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, on June 15. “The advance team is going to establish command communication system in the area and prepare for military supplies as well as facilities so that the mission could get on its way right away once the main unit arrives [later this month].” The advance team, led by vice commander Lt. Col. Lee Ha-young, is comprised of some 90 members. South Korea launched a 320-member contingent, named “Ashena,” last month following parliamentary approval in February. The main unit will be deployed in the northern Afghan province of Parwan in July along with Korea’s provincial reconstruction team (PRT), which will be comprised of about 100 construction workers and 40 police officers. Meaning friend or colleague in Parwan’s vernacular language, Ashena will operate there until the end of 2012.


Republic of Korea joins ISAF as a non-NATO Contributing Nation, Media Release MSPA 124/10, Department of Defence, 22 April 2010

… the NATO Secretary General has formally welcomed the Republic of Korea (ROK) as the 46th contributor to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Following an offer by the South Korean Government in November 2009 to deploy a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) to Parwan province, the relevant certification processes have been completed and the ROK has been officially recognised as a non?NATO ISAF Contributing Nation.

“The ROK team will comprise 50-70 civilians, 30-50 police officers and 200-400 infantry troops. The troops will be tasked with protection of the PRT and will not play a combat role.”


South Korea’s Secret War, David Axe, The Diplomat, April 27, 2010

A second deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 marked South Korea’s true debut as a military power. In response to US President Barak Obama’s call for a bigger international coalition in Afghanistan, Seoul last year pledged a Provincial Reconstruction Team and a powerful infantry force to accompany the team—a total of around 500 troops. South Korea also plans to send helicopters to support these ground troops. The aircraft, scheduled to arrive this year, will integrate into the US Army’s 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade based at Bagram, according to brigade commander Colonel Don Galli. Engineering and reconstruction are core strengths of the Korean military. But the planned Afghan PRT represents a ‘face-saving vehicle’ for Seoul, providing political cover for the combat force, according to Scott Snyder, an analyst with the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation. While South Korea is committed to making a meaningful contribution to the Afghan war, sending fighting troops ‘is somewhat sensitive in the South Korea political context,’ Snyder told The Diplomat magazine. Hence the ‘reconstruction’ rubric. All the same, Snyder said there’s been less domestic discomfort with the Afghan deployment than many observers expected. An alliance of small opposition parties promised to fight the deployment, but is unlikely to reverse Seoul’s decision. ‘The South Korean public is getting more comfortable’ with sending troops abroad, Snyder said. Just not so comfortable that they don’t demand a soft sell.

The South Korean contingent in Afghanistan illustrates Seoul’s veiled approach to a wider security role. The Korean troops, with their helicopters and armoured vehicles, form a ‘heavy’ reconstruction team that is, in fact, virtually indistinguishable from a US Army combat task force. And in fact, both the Korean PRT and a typical US task force conduct many of the same kinds of operations. After all, the Afghanistan war is a counter-insurgency campaign, where efforts to win Afghans’ allegiance drive military planning. In Afghanistan, the only important distinction between the South Koreans and the Americans is rhetorical

This year’s Afghanistan deployment is a big step towards a South Korean military that routinely participates in a wider range of missions abroad. Major weapons purchases are consistent with this trend, and might point to an even greater world security role for Seoul in coming years. In 2007, South Korea commissioned the first of three small aircraft carriers. If and when Seoul buys naval fighters to fly from them, the 14,000-ton vessels will be among the most powerful in Asia—and capable of projecting South Korea’s influence all over the world.

Summer deployment approved for Afghanistan, Lee Min-yong, Joong-An Daily, 26 February 2010

The National Assembly yesterday approved a plan to dispatch Korean troops to Afghanistan on a mission to protect civilians working on recovery projects in the war-torn nation.  Some 350 troops will be sent to Parwan Province this summer with a mandate of a two and a half years. The deployment marks a return to Afghanistan for Korean troops. Medical and engineering units were first dispatched to the country in 2002 but were pulled out completely in 2007 after the Taliban killed two Korean church workers from a group it had taken hostage and warned of “bad consequences” if Korean forces remained in Afghanistan.

The renewed deployment plan was passed yesterday by conservative lawmakers largely led by the Grand National Party. The Democrats walked out of the voting session to protest the redeployment, but did not physically block passage of the bill. A total of 163 lawmakers attended the session, and 148 voted for the plan. Five voted against it, while 10 abstained.

“After the selection, troops will receive intensive military training under the Special Warfare Command,” said a defense official on condition of anonymity. The advance and main units of the team will be dispatched in the middle of June and early July, respectively. The Korea International Cooperation Agency will cooperate with the military to coordinate details about their missions, the ministry said.

Korea return to Afghanistan, Michael Finnegan, Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, Newsletter Asia Foundation, January 2010

The Lee administration has well understood the need for ROK capabilities in Afghanistan and has attempted to work its way out of the Roh decision since coming into office in 2008. Discussions with officials and those close to the Presidential Office and the Ministry of Defense, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, reveal that the Lee administration has clearly grasped the negative implications of sitting on the sidelines in Afghanistan while simultaneously seeking constant but necessary reassurance from the U.S. that the defense of Korea remains a priority. They also clearly understand that Korea’s own interests in global stability and security demand Korean contributions. If Korea’s decision to deploy forces to Afghanistan is perceived as in Korea’s own interest, versus “for the Alliance” with the United States, this important shift in the rationale for the deployment will make Korea’s pledge of maintaining the upcoming deployment until at least December 2012 (or for 30 months) all the more credible and significant. This shift in rationale will be complete if Lee is able to effectively convince the National Assembly and the Korean people that the deployment’s root purpose derives from Korea’s own national interest.

Military of South Korea, New World Encyclopedia

At the request of the Allied Forces in Afghanistan, approximately sixty medics from the Dongui Medical Unit (Korean: ????, Hanja: ????) and 150 engineers from the Dasan Engineering Unit (Korean: ????, Hanja: ????) have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2002, to help with the reconstruction effort.[10] Among the soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, Yoon Jang-ho became the first South Korean soldier killed in action overseas since the Vietnam War.

U.S. asks Seoul to extend deployment in Afghanistan, Iraq, (Yonhap), Hankyoreh, 12 October 2007

The United States on Thursday asked South Korea to extend its military deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq, a joint statement issued after senior-level consultations between the two countries said. But the South Korean official made clear Seoul’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, scheduled for the end of this year, will go ahead as planned. Seoul is expected to submit a report soon to parliament on plans to conclude its mission in Iraq as well.

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Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Updated: 18 August 2010