South Korean Air Force chief of staff Gen. Park In-ho, second from right in the front row, and other senior air force officers stand in front of the Space Center that opened Sept 30 at Air Force headquarters in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province. Credit: South Korean Air Force

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s air force has launched a space operations center that will play a central role in drawing space policies for the nation’s armed forces as well as enhancing cooperation with domestic and international partners, including U.S. Space Force. This is the latest in a series of efforts by South Korea to enhance its space defense capabilities.

The space center’s opening ceremony took place Sept. 30 at Air Force headquarters in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, with Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Park In-ho, the center’s inaugural chief, Col. Park Gi-tae, and other top brass attending, the air force said in a statement.

The center — under Gen. Park’s direct control — consists of three departments, each responsible for space policy development, space capability development and space situational awareness. It will also be in charge of exchanges with other space units under the defense ministry and South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, as well as with its foreign counterparts and non-military research institutions for effective communication and policy setting, the air force said.

“The space center will invest all available resources to develop capabilities for the country’s space security and establish a foothold for the Air Force to make a leap to become the Space and Air Force,” Gen. Park said in the statement. “Space will be a key warfighting domain, and we will have our weapons ready up there. We will help deal with threats to space security as well.”

Col. Park said the center will make “all-out efforts to support key space programs initiated by the Ministry of National Defense and the joint chiefs of staff as well as help the Air Force bolster its space capabilities so as to enhance the nation’s defense capabilities in outer space.”

The center’s opening took place one month after the South Korean air force decided to join U.S. Space Force-led joint military drills aimed at bolstering the latter’s defense capabilities in outer space. The decision was made during an Aug. 27 meeting between Gen. Park and U.S. Space Force Gen. John W. Raymond, chief of space operations, at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The two leaders also agreed to set up a joint consultative body on space policy, share information on space surveillance and improve joint space operations capabilities such as missile defense.

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...