[FOUNTAIN]A rocket in South Korea's pocket

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[FOUNTAIN]A rocket in South Korea's pocket

Four years ago, when North Korea fired a missile with a range of about 4,000 kilometers, it was Japan that was most afraid.

Now, Japan has decided to launch an intelligence satellite. And this time, it's the Korean government that is perplexed. It can no longer consider space development as a simple show of scientific achievements of rich nations.

China successfully launched a satellite for the first time using its transfer rocket, Long March No. 1, which China invented on its own in 1970. It has also received orders from other countries to launch their satellites from China.

The year 1972 was a significant year, marking the beginning of South Korea's aerospace industry. That was when President Park Chung Hee, who emphasized the importance of a self-defense posture, established the Agency for Defense Development and hurriedly launched the development of the Baekgom, or "white bear," missile. Baekgom, which was based on the U.S. Nike-Hercules rocket, was the first missile that Korea developed. But it took another five years for Korean scientists to develop a liquid fuel exclusively for launching satellites. In 1997, a liquid oxygen tank, which allows a rocket to enter an orbit while carrying paraffin oil in its tanks, was put into application.

The launching of the KSR-3 rocket from the west coast of South Chungcheong province last week was the fruit of the tenacious efforts by Korean researchers and their patriotic attitudes toward Korean science. There were tears on the faces of the staff when the rocket shot up to the sky. It was only the initial phase of testing, but it was successful. And the performance of the engine, which is a unique Korean design, was exemplary.

In 1994, Japan succeeded in firing an H2 rocket some 3,600 kilometers into orbit. If Japan manages to launch a spy satellite, the entire Korean Peninsula will be in the eye of the Japanese. Satellites can be used as weapons, mediums for communication and to look for resources during peace and war.

North Korean rockets, which are based on old Scud missiles designed by the former Soviet Union, are five to 10 years ahead of South Korea's rocket development. The satellite industry has a great effect on other industries as well. It is through scientific education and the continuous support of the citizenry that South Korea can successfully achieve space development.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Choi Chul-joo

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