Maksym Kosachevskyy, Staff Writer
February 19, 2016
Fireworks exploded in the sky, crowds cheered for another successful development in space technology and the U.N. condemned the launch of a North Korean long-range rocket.
On Feb. 7, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea launched the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite into space. The launch, deemed a failure, received heavy criticism and even threats of war from neighboring nations.
The escapade began when North Korea gave prior notice of a satellite launch to international organizations like the International Telecommunication Union. This announcement was quickly denounced, but the nation ignored these warnings and shot the rocket anyway.
Despite years of development, the rocket malfunctioned.
“Their satellite deployed poorly, causing it to spin erratically in orbit and rendering it mostly useless,” said Early College junior Justin Kerr.
Much like a child not listening to his mother’s warnings to put on a coat, North Korea felt the chilly breeze of the winter air. First, the launch worsened relations with the country’s neighbor, South Korea.
“The launch was a direct escalation of the conflict between North and South Korea,” said Part-time Lecturer of Peace & Conflict Studies Mary Hope.
“Their decision to do the launch can be compared to two donut companies having an agreement not to talk about the sugar content of their donuts. Then, let’s say, one company decides to advertise the corn syrup content of the other company. In context, although the launch is not a direct violation of the (agreement) between the Koreas, it is a very related choice of behavior.”
The test also evoked the threat of the United States, who is planning to send a missile defense system to South Korea in the near future.
It was not all for nothing, however. On one hand, the nation managed to stay afloat despite almost crumbling into pieces.
“North Korea is trying to remain relevant in the world,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “It is the most isolated and backwards country. Their people are starving, and their economy sucks.”
On the other, it showed its capabilities and furthered its aims.
“It was their intent to show their power, to show their might, to show their defiance and to advance their technology,” said Hope.
So why did a simple satellite cause such a controversy?
The most significant reason behind the stir is what the rocket launch implied. From October 2006 to January 2016, North Korea tested four nuclear weapons. It has also threatened to bomb numerous countries and has recently increased its plutonium production.
The satellite launch, in this case, was seen as a front for a ballistic missile test.
The nuclear capabilities of the nation should, however, be taken with a pinch of salt.
“The concern that one would normally have for (a nuclear test) isn’t as important in this case,” said Early College senior Pratham Chhabria.
“This is because the bomb North Korea (claims) to make is a fusion bomb. The extent of its damage, if it was to be tested, would ideally be capable of blowing up a midsize city, whereas in the recent tests, the seismic migrations have been much lower than what is expected from a hydrogen bomb.”
To prevent any possibility of nuclear war, the U.N. Security Council has placed numerous sanctions on North Korea in the past and is planning to adopt more soon. In addition, over 50 nations will likely discuss North Korea’s nuclear efforts in the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit.
Some believe that for these measures to have any effect, the very core of North Korea must change.
“It would be beneficial to encourage members of their leadership to continue to branch out and educate themselves,” said Hope.
“Education can help any human open its mind – especially one with a narrow mind. I would recommend the leader to take an international trip, get an education at Oxford or another institution.”
In the end, the satellite launch may have shown the intentions of North Korea, but the nation is far from actually achieving those goals.
“You go on a summer picnic,” said Duncan. “You got the barbeque pit fired up. You got the watermelon, your cold drinks and there’s this damn gnat that keeps flying around, aggravating the hell out of you. Well that’s North Korea. It’s just a nuisance.”