South Korea Says North Korea Dumped $1.3B USD Into Missile Launch
December 12, 2012 4:30 PM
(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
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,
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.
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,
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).
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]
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.
"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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