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South Korea Joins North in Space
January 30, 2013

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Both North Korea and South Korea can now boast of a successful rocket launch. North Korea's launch took place in December. South Korea's took place yesterday.

Reaction to the launches has been quite different. When North Korea announced its launch in late 2012, high-level officials in other countries voiced alarm that the Pyongyang government was one step closer to developing nuclear missiles. (North Korea, for its part, has not done a lot to counter that fear.) However, the announcement by the Seoul government that its launch contained a scientific satellite was met with applause in many quarters.

North Korea, which has announced two successful nuclear tests, is, of course, banned from pursing ballistic missile technology, reinforced with sanctions after the December 12 rocket launch. The government of Kim Jong-Un, who recently announced a new level of aggression toward the U.S. and other Western nations, has said that it is pursuing a scientific program as well.

In Seoul, the mood was jubilation as the world's fourth-largest economy succeeded in getting a satellite into orbit for the first time, after several aborted attempts. The government of Lee Myung-bak said that the satellite would perform a number of science-based tasks, including measuring radiation in space and analyzing weather data.

South Korea's incoming President, Park Geun-hye, has pledged an increase in spending on science and technology. Park narrowly won election a few weeks ago, partly on a campaign promise of taking a harder line with North Korea.

Some observers worry that the twin rocket launches could lead to an escalation of hostilities between the two countries, which fought a bitter war in the 1950s and still have no peace treaty to prove that hostilities have truly ended. (The 1953 truce ended the fighting and, in part, resulted in the Demilitarized Zone that ostensibly keeps the peace.)




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