North Korea's Third Satellite Launch Has Failed. This Time, It Admits It.

By Veronique Greenwood | April 13, 2012 12:18 pm

The North Korean satellite command center, during an open
house for foreign journalists

North Korea has drawn international ire in the last few months with its plan to launch a satellite—called Bright Shining Star—that the United States and its allies perceived as a veiled attempt to test potential long-range weapons. The US even canceled food relief worth about $200 million dollars to feed the country’s starving population, when the government announced that the launch would go forward as part of the festivities surrounding new leader Kim Jong-un’s rise to power.

The launch attempt today, however, failed, with the satellite breaking up and falling into the Yellow Sea. The satellite, which South Korean estimates say cost the country $450 million to build, reached barely a third of the height required to make orbit.

This does not bode well for the scientists involved in the project, North Korea expert Markus Noland noted on his blog (via NYT):

“The North Koreans have managed in a single stroke to not only defy the U.N. Security Council, the United States and even their patron China, but also demonstrate ineptitude,” Mr. Noland said. “Some of the scientists and engineers associated with the launch are likely facing death or the gulag as scapegoats for this embarrassment.”

Perhaps because of the large numbers foreign press who witnessed the launch this time, the North Korean government admitted that the launch had failed. This was not the case for the previous two launches:

Launch failures are not uncommon even for rich and technologically advanced nations. But in the myth-filled world of the Kim family, there is little room for failure. The North’s two previous attempts to put a satellite into orbit failed, according to American officials, but both times the government insisted that the satellites were circling the earth and broadcasting songs about its great leaders.

Read more at the NYT.

Image courtesy of Voice of America / Wikimedia Commons

  • Joe B.

    “…both times the government insisted that the satellites were circling the earth and broadcasting songs about its great leaders.”

    And, on a still night, if you stand quietly on a hill-top, holding your breath, you might hear one flying overhead.

  • 2crudedudes

    So we’re donating $200 million to their needy while the government spends $450 million on their toys? That’s fantastic.

  • Iain

    Stop all aide to North Korea. They could feed their people if they just reduced their military to reasonable levels. A one million man standing army is ludicrous.

  • James

    I don’t think we should stop aid to the country’s poor. The government is obviously not going to help them. The women and the children should get fed. The men that do not work, do not eat.

  • Geack

    @3. Iain,

    The money we send to NK isn’t “aid” in any meaningful sense – it’s a straight-up bribe to the country’s leadership to prevent them from letting their insanity screw up East Asia. People who know about this stuff seem to think it’s a pretty good bargain. That million-man army could do an awful lot of damage to the country’s neighbors before they finally ran out of bullets or starved to death.


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