THE NORTH KOREAN SATELLITE ATTEMPT OF 1998.
By Francis Graham
There have been, from time to time, exploration hoaxes. It was hotly debated whether Peary reached the pole, although, it now seems, he did or was very close. His competitor, Frederick Cook, never did but staged an elaborate hoax which was exposed.
As space exploration unfolds, it is not surprising that space exploration hoaxes emerge.
On the last
day of August, 1998, the Democratic Republic of Korea, also known as
At that time,
The satellite was very unsophisticated for the 21st century. It was a scaled down variant of the first Chinese satellite, but instead of playing “The East is Red” as the Chinese satellite did, the North Korean satellite played “The Song of Kim Il Sung” and “The Song of Kim Jong Il” for its brief flight.
announced to the public that the satellite was still in orbit and was a
complete success. Since North Koreans
aren’t allowed to receive foreign broadcasts, television, or periodicals, not
even from their countrymen to the south, naturally North Koreans believed
it. They celebrated it. Some people have
Just to make
sure, in case of a failure, the North Koreans set their satellite transmitter
(which played a tape recording of “The Song of Kim Jong Il” and the “Song of
Kim Il Sung”) to 27 MHz. This is of course
assigned to satellite broadcasting or to
So there were
no lingering doubts, the North Koreans announced a time where the satellite would
be visible over
Fortunately the bogus orbital parameters also corresponded to a passage of the Russian satellite Cosmos 1220 over the city. The North Koreans celebrated again.
I am not sure
what is gong to happen when
All in all, however, it must be said that the North Korean Leadership played the card as well as it could from a geopolitical perspective. While the satellite failed to orbit, the booster rocket itself could be a formidable military missile. This, coupled with the acquisition of at least a few atomic weapons, made the North Koreans a group to be reckoned with. Agreements were made by which missile testing above a certain range was suspended, and atomic weapons would be phased out in exchange for peaceful power reactors of a type not easily conducive to weapons production. If these agreements are kept, paradoxically the Korean peninsula will be a safer place. But it also guarantees that the Korean Workers Party and Kim Jong Il will hold sway north of the DMZ for a while.
A book published in North Korea showing
Kwangmyongsong in orbit on the cover.
The title is "Man-Made Earth Satellite" and the publisher is the Science Encyclopedia Collaborative. Published in 1999, it is 96 pages.