The ministry announced the plan last September as part of efforts to boost its defense budget, saying the export of the M1 Garand and carbine rifles would start by the end of 2009.
The U.S. administration put the brakes on the plan, citing “problems” that could be caused by the importation of the rifles.
The problems the U.S. government cited were somewhat ambiguous, said an official at the Ministry of National Defense on condition of anonymity.
“The U.S. insisted that imports of the aging rifles could cause problems such as firearm accidents. It was also worried the weapons could be smuggled to terrorists, gangs or other people with bad intentions,” the official told The Korea Times.
“We’re still looking into the reason why the U.S. administration is objecting to the sale of the rifles and seeking ways to resolve the problems raised,” he said.
Critics say the ministry pushed to sell the firearms in a hasty manner without enough consultation with the U.S. beforehand, as calls were growing to increase defense expenditure.
The Seoul government sought to sell the outdated U.S guns back to the United States.
A total of 86,000 M1 rifles and another 22,000 carbines were to be sold, as the weapons have been mothballed for about five decades in military warehouses. The per-unit price of the M1 rifle is about $220 and the carbine is more than $140, according to the ministry.
Source: Jung Sung-ki for Korea Times.