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  (Source: [North Korean Propaganda Poster])
That would be enough to buy 4.6 million tons of corn

North Korea's missile launch succeeded in putting a satellite in orbit (perhaps thanks to some Iranian expertise) this morning.  But at what cost did the successful launch come?

I. Money Could Have Ended Famine, Claims South Korea

According to South Korean officials in the Ministry of Unification, the launch and a failed attempt in April directly cost $600M USD (mostly for the rocket and engineering expertise), the launch site costs $400M USD, and additional $300M USD was spent on related facilities.  That adds up to a total of a cool $1.3B USD -- a massive sum for the poverty stricken nation.

To put this in context, South Korea says that would have bought 4.6 million tons of corn for the nation, where a third of citizens are estimated to be malnourished.  That would be enough corn, it says, to feed the people in the north for four to five years.

North Korea is home to an estimated 24 million people, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Average household income in North Korea is less than $1,900 USD a year, among the lowest incomes in the world.

North Korea Now
One third of North Koreans are estimated to be malnourished. [Image Source: NK Now]

There is some debate about the true cost due to potential deals between Iran and North Korea, in which North Korea agreed to act as the Middle Eastern nation's weapons test bed (and thus may have received better rates on parts and engineering expertise).  

Further questions on the price figure come in due to the fact that North Korean engineers are known to make much less than their foreign peers, but the exact rate is a topic of current reserach and debate.  North Korea is very hostile, isolated, and secretive to its neighbors (other than China) and the U.S., so it is difficult for foreign observers to get accurate numbers to describe its economy.

II. North Korea -- Proud or Used?

Despite its anti-U.S. propoganda North Korea has expressed of late a desire to be recognized by the U.S. and given aid.  A food deal was in the works, but fell through when North Korea broke promises and launched its failed missile test in April.

The big winner in the missile test may be Iran who is unlikely to face sanctions for its supposed involvement, and appears to have offloaded some of the costs of its weaponization efforts on a far poorer ally.  Average income in Iran, according to the CIA, is $13,200, meaning a single Iranian on average earns as much as nearly seven North Koreans (the average income in the U.S. $48,300 USD, roughly 3.7 times Iran's per capita income, and 25.4 times as much as North Korea's per capita income).

Iran missile launch
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard test launch of missiles is shown here dating back to 2006.  The launch was carried out in the city of Qom, a holy city in the Islamist movement.
[Image Source: AFP]

Iran had allegedly approached Russia in 2009 with a satellite launch request, but was rebuffed.  Since it has focused on its own internal rocket efforts for commercial and military purposes.  The White House and CIA have expressed in recent years the belief that Iran is eager to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could be used to threaten the mainland U.S. and its Middle Eastern ally Israel.

Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh in recent statements denied it was targeting the U.S., but confirmed it was refining designs to fire at Israel, stating, "Israel is our longest-range target."

North Korea contends that regardless of the cost, it is worth it to develop both peaceful space projects and nuclear weapons, which it says it needs to "defend itself" against the U.S.

According to a recent public radio report North Korea's rhetoric has shifted since Kim Jung-un assumed power, taking the fresh stance that failure is (sometimes) acceptable, because as some observers put it, the leader says great nations often fail.  For instance, North Korea in the past only broadcast Olympic events where its team or athletes won the particular match.  This time around, they broadcast the whole event and welcomed home the athletes -- even the losers -- as national heroes (traditionally losers were sent to work camps).

Indeed many expected this unfamiliar new breed of mea culpas from the Asian regime to arrive this week when the rocket launched, given the delays due to technical difficulties.  But instead North Korea surprised observers and succeeded, shifting the question to a new one -- whether the cost of success was worth it.

Source: CNN

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not bad
By anandtech02148 on 12/12/2012 6:17:01 PM , Rating: -1
Not bad for a country that's been embargoed, sanctioned sinces 1950s. While other countries play with the debt game from free financial access, they have to save their pennies for a rocket launch.
Look at NASA now? when the funding stop, did they ever count the dollars they lost over 50yrs?

RE: not bad
By Guspaz on 12/12/2012 7:14:50 PM , Rating: 2
The difference is that NASA's funding wasn't being given by a government that was starving a third of its population to death.

RE: not bad
By NicodemusMM on 12/12/2012 7:47:31 PM , Rating: 2
Nice comparison. Really accurate. A masterful display of logic and reason.

I wonder how many technological innovations will come about by N. Korea's 'space program' and the private companies supporting it. Wait... do private companies even exist in N. Korea? Anyway, of those non-existent innovations, how many will be used to help its citizens or those of other nations? Granted, with the BS the N. Korea citizenry are being fed, they may be willing to sustain such low quality of life. For all we know they think the world is at their doorstep and they have to give up everything for defense. It was not that way with NASA. Yes, there was a perceived threat and the nation rallied behind the cause for the most part, but the U.S. wasn't in negotiations to receive food assistance from anyone because its citizens were starving either.

Out of curiosity, do you even know the reason for the embargoes and sanctions you referenced? Didn't think so.

It looks like they're going to have to pinch pennies even more for the next launch, meal, clothing, or whatever because their illustrious leader is, yet again, pissing in the wind in the general direction of almost everyone that could aid them.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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