Firearms will be sold to Korean War veterans
M1 Garand rifle
By Lee Tae-hoon
Washington has agreed to allow the importation of M1 Garand rifles from Seoul, reversing its earlier decision to ban the shipping of the weapon used by South Korean and U.S. soldiers during the 1950-53 Korean War, a senior defense official said Wednesday.
“The U.S. government approved the imports of some 86,000 of the rifles,” said Lee Sun-chul, deputy defense minister for force and resources management.
“The historic firearms are expected to be sold to American Korean War veterans and their families in time for the 62nd anniversary of the Korean War, which falls on June 25 this year.”
Kim Mi-sung, an official of the force and resources management office, said the defense ministry received an approval letter from the United States on Sept. 2 last year that stated Washington agreed to allow the importation of the M1s.
She noted that the U.S. government, however, rejected Seoul’s proposal to export some 600,000 M1 Carbines, which were also used in the Korean War, as they come with a magazine that can carry multiple rounds unlike the Garands.
“We plan to announce a bid later this month or in February for the selection of agencies to sell the M1 rifles to Americans,” Kim said. “The U.S. has been reviewing legal procedures for the approval of a third party transfer.”
The official said Korea plans to purchase locally developed K2 rifles with the money raised by selling the M1s.
The Obama administration blocked the purchase of 87,310 M1 Garands and 770,160 M1 Carbines in 2010, saying the American-made antique rifles could “potentially be exploited by individuals seeking firearms for illicit purposes.”
The move, however, triggered strong criticism among gun collectors, who said the U.S. government was being excessively concerned about possible firearm incidents involving the aging semiautomatic rifles.
In February last year, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Cynthia Lummis proposed bills for an amendment of the Arms Export Control Act to guarantee that U.S.-made military firearms classified as “curios and relics” will not be blocked from importation.
The legislations allow firearms more than 50 years old, considered antiques or relics and lawfully possessed by a foreign government, to be imported into the United States through properly licensed groups and sold without written permission from the U.S. State or Defense Departments.
A senior defense ministry official, however, raised the possibility that the U.S. government may cancel the plan to allow the purchase the M1s, saying Seoul has yet to finalize negotiations with Washington.
``We have yet to receive confirmation from the United States over our proposal,” he said. “The U.S. government may change its position at the last minute due to political considerations.”
M1s were made first in 1926 and used during World War II and the Vietnam War. The carbines were first produced in 1941 and used during the 1950-1953 Korean War.
They currently sell for around $220, according to another defense ministry official.
미국 정부는 한국정부가 M1 개런드 소총 8만 6천 여정을 미국으로 역수출 할 수 있도록 추진하는 것에 대해 동의했다고 국방부 관계자들은 18일 밝혔다.
국방부 한 관계자에 의하면 한국전 당시 한미 연합 군이 사용했던 M1 소총을 1월 말 또는 2월 입찰 공고를 하여 미국에 판매 할 업체를 선정할 예정이다.
그는 국방부가 우리군이 60여만정 보유하고 있는 카빈 소총에 대해서도 수출 추진 허가를 미국정부에 요청했지만 카빈이 M1과는 달리 탄창이 달려있고 자동사격 개조가 용이해 테러리스트나 폭력단체들에 의해 악용될 우려가 있다며 수출허가를 내주지 않았다고 밝혔다.
M1 미국판매를 희망하는 업체들은 6.25전쟁 발발 62주년에 맞추어 한국전쟁 미군참전용사와 그들의 후손들에게 M1 소총을 판매할 계획을 세운 것으로 알려져 있다.
오바마 행정부는 2010년 M1 소총 87,310여정과 카빈 소총 770,160여정에 대한 한국정부의 수출요청에 대해 “대량의 무기 거래가 있게 될 경우, 불법적 목적으로 화기를 찾는 사람들에 의해 악용될 여지가 있다”며 거절한 적이 있다.
국방부는 M1 소총 판매 수입으로 K2 국산 소총을 구매 할 예정이다.