Outside the Asia-Pacific region, few headlines have featured the recent, rapid modernization of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy. The U.S. Navy and other Asia-Pacific maritime services, however, clearly see how the Korean naval waterfront has changed. New, impressive platforms with the latest search/detection/track equipment and modern weaponry are present not only in Korean ports, but increasingly throughout the region, at Pearl Harbor, in the Indian Ocean, and beyond. How quickly this force-structure modernization occurred has been nothing short of extraordinary. But with that transition in such a compressed time, challenges are sure to emerge.
Can a naval force that has upgraded its hardware and capabilities so quickly in response to new missions keep up with associated manpower and training requirements? What are those new requirements? What impact does this rapid transition have on the ROK Navy’s maritime partnership with the United States?