North Korean Rocket Fizzles

North Korea has been in the midst of one of the largest holiday celebrations in recent memory.  To celebrate new leader Kim Jong-un’s ascension to power, and the 100th birthday of his grandfather, North Korea’s first “Dear Leader,” the communist country recently announced plans to launch a weather satellite into orbit.  The satellite, to be carried by one of the country’s most advanced missile systems, would be Kim’s first major achievement as North Korea’s leader.

Unfortunately for Kim, the satellite never made it into orbit.  In fact, the launch, which took place Friday, April 13th, was a disaster from the start.  Shortly after lifting off, the rocket broke up and crashed harmlessly into the Yellow Sea.  It was the first time the country had ever admitted failure despite three similarly unsuccessful attempts.

Not only was this failure a major public relations disaster for Kim Jong-un, it cost the North Korean government in a number of other ways.  After investing roughly $450 million in a new launch site near the Chinese border, and the $400 million price tag on the rocket, North Korea ended up wasting nearly $1 billion on the entire endeavor—money it simply did not have to spend.  As a result of the widely condemned launch, North Korea also sacrificed food aid from the United States which could have fed nearly one million people in the impoverished country.

In light of the dramatic failure of North Korea’s rocket, many analysts now fear that Kim will attempt to flex his muscle in a different manner.  Intelligence analysts in Washington believe that Kim could authorize the underground test of one of North Korea’s twelve nuclear warheads within the coming month.  Recent satellite imagery of North Korea allegedly shows preparation work being undertaken for just such an exercise.

With a new leader, North Korea is going through a transition period.  Kim Jong-un’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, ruled the fiercely private country for nearly 20 years.  The newest Kim must affirm his position atop North Korea’s government.  The worry here is how strong of a grip does Kim have on the handles of power?  Should the United States be concerned about a potential overthrow of the Kim led ruling party?  Which is a greater evil: Kim Jong-un with access to a nuclear arsenal or complete destabilization of a nation with nuclear warheads?

For more on the failed rocket launch click here.


  1. Unfortunately, North Korea has attempted feats like this for decades while their people suffered. North Koreans are an extremely impoverished people, and until recently, most foreign aid has been denied by their oppressive leaders. Unfortunately, due to the military capacities of the nation, and their proximity to nations such as South Korea and Japan, this will likely continue to be a tension-filled area of the world for years to come.

    In recent months, there was some encouraging signs that Korea was starting to accept outside aid, and perhaps shed their isolationist veil. However, If they were to flex their military muscle as Brian suggests they might , they would eliminate any of that process. These next few years will be extremely important in seeing what North Korea’s future will be.

  2. Considering the current political climate as well as the celebratory nature of the event, I can certainly see the logic behind wanting to launch the missile and put the satellite into space despite that fact that it would make them ineligible for food aid from the United States. That being said, considering the economic side of this event, it seems irresponsible. A nation should put its priorities on feeding its people and meeting basic needs before trying to go after fame and glory. Even if the launch had been successful, things would have been much better off if that money, or even a fraction of it, had just gone to feeding the hungry and meeting peoples basic needs, especially since that money would have been supplement by food aid from the United States. Moreover, factoring in the military tension that Joseph alludes to in his comment, the benefits really seemed to be outweighed here.

  3. Because North Korea is such a closed country, we really do not know what kind of power and control Kim Jong-un has. I am of the opinion that he is not much more than a figurehead, with the Generals and other long-established higher ups having the real power. Part of North Korea’s goals with these exercises is to keep the people’s minds off of the bad conditions and lack of food in the nation. Showing people the “glorious accomplishments” of North Korea thus serves as a way to distract the people from the real problems facing the nation. Even when they aren’t successful, as here, they are bound to try again. The North Korean people are under such a tight stranglehold by their government that it is doubtful that any instability will come to the nation any time soon. What is certain is that North Korea must be closely monitored is order for the United States and other nations to be prepared if North Korea takes any concrete steps towards aggression.

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