K12 South Korean Light Machine Gun
ABOVE: Shooting with spade grip only. Even with this configuration control was not that difficult.
From 1990 to very recently, the ROK (Republic of Korea; or South Korea) army had a tendency to reduce the presence of 7.62mm NATO light or medium machine guns. From the 1970s to 1990, the South Korea military used M60 GPMGs as their ‘almost universal’ machine gun; first supplied from the U.S. as military support when the ROK military dispatched a considerable number of troops to Vietnam and then manufactured under license by Daewoo Precision Industry, Co. (today’s S&T Motive). It was used everywhere machine guns were used: infantry, vehicle mounted, helicopter mounted, etc. Since the ROK military was heavily influenced under U.S. doctrine, it was quite natural and that influence led to the development of the K3 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), since the U.S. Army used the M249 SAW from the 1980s. The K3 is the ‘Koreanized’ version of the famous Minimi, and the role of K3 in ROK Army/Marine Corps was initially quite similar to that of the M249 in U.S. military. However, during the 2000s, things began to change. While M60s became old and gradually needed to be replaced, ROK military changed many of them with K3s. Unlike the U.S. military who uses medium machine guns for platoon level fire support, the South Korean army replaced many old M60s in infantry outfits with K3s – thus removing medium machine guns for infantry. Vehicle-mounted and helicopter-mounted MGs mostly remained to be M60 variants, but even for that role some K3s were employed; for example, a few Korean made armored vehicles were armed only with K3s.