By Danielle Lapierre
Recently, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have conducted a test of a new type of rocket engine that leader Kim Jong Un said will be a turning point in North Korea’s space program. This comes despite the DPRK being under a long range missile tests ban by the United Nations.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) a government controlled media outlet in North Korea, quoted Kim Jong Un calling the test “a great event of historic significance.”
“When you have a government like North Korea does, who consistently lies to its people, they do not need to actually go to space to convince and tell everybody that they went to space,” said Sacred Heart University sophomore Jacob Henny.
The KCNA continued to mention that the test was only for peaceful purposes and to “help consolidate the scientific and technological foundation to match the world-level satellite delivery capability in the field of outer space development.”
Other students were concerned about the possibility of North Korea traveling space with the country’s history of human rights violations and threats of nuclear warfare, as well as questioning North Korea’s intent as reported by the KCNA.
“North Korea is always very volatile and constantly threatens anyone who disagrees with them or their leadership. So it really makes me nervous if they were to get anything up in space and could possibly increase their ability to follow through on some of their threats,” said junior Taylor Tobin.
North Korea’s plans for their space program over the next 10 years include launching Earth observation satellites as well as a communications satellite, which would be the DPRK’s first, as part of a five-year plan. They also claim that within the next ten years they are planning a moon launch as well.
“Also with a country who lies about the constant and horrible violations of human rights that they commit against their own people, why should we even believe their claims that they are doing all of this for peaceful reasons and without any malicious intent?” said Tobin.
Earlier this month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, which reportedly got as close as 120 miles to shoreline of Japan.
“North Korea, in my opinion, does not care about space exploration whatsoever,” said Henny. “I definitely think that this is a tactic for him [Kim Jong Un] to cause less international alarm with his nuclear program. If he tries to say ‘this is all just for space exploration’ there will still be an alarm, but less of it.”
The timing of the tests also coincided with the first visit to the northern part of Asia by the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson who was in that part of the world to discuss concerns about North Korea with the leaders of the countries surrounding the DPRK.
However, some students believed that while North Korea is a concern, we should wait and see what their motivations really are.
“I am a little concerned about North Korea’s rocket tests, but I also don’t think we should focus all of our attention on events that may or may not happen based on guesses and assumptions,” said junior Lauren McGillivray. “I think we should be cautious and keep an eye on North Korea, but we should continue to allow them to explore space until we have more evidence to believe that this research isn’t innocent.”
With the international community looking at North Korea and waiting to see what they will do, students are on their toes as well.
“We should definitely be concerned,” said Henny. “But then again, we should always be concerned about North Korea.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.