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Korea seeks membership in the space club


A work of art is in the air next to the North Seoul Tower on the top of Nam mountain in Seoul on Feb, 22, 2010. The tower is the best observatory space of Seoul.


Jung Yeon-je

South Korea is talking big game.

By 2020, it says, it will launch a rocket into space made entirely with home-grown Korean technology.

If successful, Korea will join Russia, the United States, France, Japan, China, the U.K., India, Israel and Iran in being able to make space rockets and satellites without any outside help.

The government plans to invest about $1.5 billion in the process, and the rocket is meant to put a 1.5-ton satellite into orbit 600 km to 800 km above the Earth, reports the Chosun Ibo.

With satellites come heightened scientific research and — are you listening, Kim Jong Il? — better defense monitoring.

Animosity has continued between the Koreas since two deadly attacks last year. The North has denied involvement in the sinking of a warship in March that killed 46 South Korean sailors and argued that a November artillery barrage that killed four was provoked by South Korean firing drills.

Anything the South can do to appear more fierce in the eyes of its neighbor is an added advantage. But only time will tell if Seoul's plans are more than pipe dreams.

South Korea has tried twice before to launch rockets into space, and failed. Those projects in 2009 and 2010 were in collaboration with Russia.

Asia is all over space, really. Especially China, which aims to land a man on the moon by 2030. So far, the United States is well ahead of Asian countries in the space department (after all, we put a man on the moon more than, ahem, 40 years ago).