Perspectives on North Korea’s Unsuccessful Rocket Launch

Written by   Lee Yoo Eun

North Korea launched a rocket on April 12, 2012, despite international warnings of censure [1] and further isolation. But to its embarrassment, the rocket disintegrated right after the launch and its remnants fell into the sea. This incident stirred up numerous debates in South Korean Internet space.

An instant reaction on the news of rocket launch was tut-tutting over the astronomical amount of money wasted on its unsuccessful launch, which could have been used to feed millions of starving North Koreans. A comment by Kim Sun-jun read 

They burnt away [the cost of] a year’s amount of corn (which could have fed North Koreans) [note: corn is originally a supplementary crop but has become one of the major crops in North Korea after the country suffered from a serious shortage of rice for decades]

Yoon Jae-won (@yjw23_kseri [4]), a North Korean analyst at the Kim Kwang Su Economic Research Institute, wrote six tweets which have been retweeted numerous times by other users. After condeming [5] [ko] North Korea’s rocket launch as a ‘reprehensible act’ which could ruin current six-party talks [6], which are slowly progressing, Yoon then questions [7] [ko] public belief in the effectiveness of international sanction:

But we need to get realistic in handling North Korea. It is only natural to blame the North through the UN Security Council, but this kind of hawkish approach and single-handedly using such an approach may backfire and bring bigger problems in the future.

Yoon further explains :

Using the international sanction as the one and only [diplomatic strategy] will further isolate North Korea from the international community. And it will also solidify Kim Jong-un’s [the country's current leader] grip of power by making people gather under his name. Lee Myung-bak’s [current president of South Korea] administration should be able to take control over this situation and try not to isolate them further in order to lead North Korea into revolution and the open market.

Daum Agora forum user stkt [9] refuses to use the word ‘ failure [10]‘ [ko] in describing North Korea’s rocket launch, since there is no failure in sceintific experiments, especially in the space development program:

The common usage of the term ‘failure’ in ordinary experimental situations does not really apply to rocket launches. Unlike regular weapons experiments, the only way to get data is by actually launching a rocket (in the case of rocket experiments). What matters here is whether they have succeeded in pulling out meaningful data during the experiment and whether they have learnt a lesson, NOT whether the rocket itself has launched alright.

Daum Agora user Ceasurs21 [11] introduces  an interesting perspective:

Although I welcomed the news of North Korea’s unsuccessful rocket launch, at the same time, I was concerned about the perilous lives of North Koreans who are involved in its rocket launch programs. In the case of scientists who have the core knowledge on the program [this] would save their lives after being beaten [by the government], but I felt really sorry for [ordinary] scientists who will be dragged into a prison camp for their failure.[…] And there are South Koreans who will suffer from this launch failure: stock investors. When news on North Korea’s impending rocket launch broke out in the past few days, there was a sharp spike in the value of bundled stock packages that include stocks in the security and defense industries.

Daum Agora user 이건좀아니다 [13], after explaining about North Korean’s brinksmanship strategy, complains [14] [ko] that since its threat patterns have not changed for decades, it is the South Korean government’s turn to come up with effective strategies to handle such a dire situation.

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