“Kim Jong-il said that ‘There is nothing to be scared about once we develop a satellite’. He told scientists to develop a satellite no matter what. In April 1991, Kim Jong-il gave medals and television sets to scientists and engineers when he received a report that there was a breakthrough in the development. He said that that day his lifelong wish came true.”
-Kim Duk-hong, former deputy head of research at North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party.
SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Korea Bizwire) – Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ordered the development of a satellite in 1987, a former senior North Korean official said in a recently published memoir.
Kim gave the order as he said North Korea should be capable of hitting the United States, said Kim Duk-hong, former deputy head of research at North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party.
The defector said North Korea test-launched a satellite in August 1997, a decade after Kim Jong-il gave the instructions due to an economic crisis.
Kim’s memoir gained media attention as North Korea has vowed to launch a series of satellites as part of its space development program.
There is lingering speculation that Pyongyang may launch a long-range rocket in the coming months to put what it claims is a satellite into orbit. Seoul and Washington view a satellite launch as a cover for testing the North’s ballistic missile technology, which is banned under U.N. resolutions.
Experts said there is a technological similarity between a rocket launch and a long-range missile test. They also said a rocket can carry either a satellite or a warhead and the technology in launching a satellite could be diverted for military purposes.
The North claimed it successfully put a satellite into orbit in April 2009. However, South Korea and the U.S. said at the time that the launch was to test North Korea’s ballistic missile technology and that no object entered orbit. The launch drew U.N. condemnation, prompting North Korea to conduct a second nuclear test a month later in retaliation.