Free Markets, Free People

Sure would hate to be a rocket scientist in NoKo right now

My guess is the population of rocket scientists (at least North Korean’s version of them) may be a bit smaller today.

For the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, his government’s failure to put a satellite into orbit on Friday was a $1 billion humiliation.


The rocket reached only about 94 miles in altitude, far less than 310 miles required to place a satellite into orbit and, as North Korean officials liked to say, present “a gift” to the closest the North Koreans had to a heavenly God: Kim Il-sung.


“It is hard to imagine a greater humiliation,” a North Korea expert, Marcus Noland, said on his blog at the Web site of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“The North Koreans have managed in a single stroke to not only defy the U.N. Security Council, the United States and even their patron China, but also demonstrate ineptitude,” Mr. Noland said. “Some of the scientists and engineers associated with the launch are likely facing death or the gulag as scapegoats for this embarrassment.”


And I don’t expect their ability to successfully launch a satellite to be enhanced by those who replace them.

There’s a very basic reason for that – even in such hard science areas as rocketry, their rise is based more in loyalty than ability.  Additionally, with little to no access to the outside world (except perhaps Iran), they must discover, through trial and error, many of the things more advanced countries learned decades ago.

And, of course when results like what happened yesterday yield “rewards” like death or the gulag, the rush to fill those vacancies and attempt the next launch are probably not among the highest priorities of whatever NoKo would consider its “brightest and best” in the field.

North Korea is a tragic joke.  Each time we’re led to believe they’ve developed something that threatens us all and they usually manage instead to embarrass themselves and to leave everyone questioning the hyperbole associated with the build up to their latest failed stunt.  They remind me more of a reckless kid with a chemistry set than a serious international threat. 

They are certainly a regional threat.  Any country with a million man army has to be taken seriously, at least conventionally.  But I think we can relax for the time being concerning ICBMs and nukes.  All they’re capable of right now is producing a rather expensive fireworks show.

As Zero Hedge said, “North Korea is redefining the term “minuteman”.


Twitter: @McQandO

21 Responses to Sure would hate to be a rocket scientist in NoKo right now

  • I can but hope the Iranians are either giving them information, or getting information from them.
    And yes, we were just this morning the ‘opening’ in employment that probably occurred in North Korean rocketry in the last 12 hours. I have to confess, there wasn’t much grief expressed.

  • You can’t but wonder why they haven’t tried the new and revised “China model” because the old model just doesn’t really work.

    • @Neo_ I think the Chinese (and enough of their leaders) were/are practical at heart. Clearly not so in NoKo.

      • OMG! I’m ERB……

        • @looker Just rearrange reality in your head, and it will be as if you never made that comment. Though slippage into visions of magenta caterpillars is always an attendant risk.

        • @Billy Hollis And the ample bosoms, don’t forget the bosoms!

      • @looker Just closely monitor yourself for any urge to say “…good and necessary” or “…20th Century thinking”. You may have caught it in time.

        • @Ragspierre If he ever includes a non-ironic use of “watch and learn”, we’ll know it’s too late.

        • @Ragspierre “You may have caught it in time”—jTo be sure.

      • @looker My personal experience with the Chinese is that they reward risk taking but, like the NoKo-s, provide no safety net for those who fail. The real difference between the two is that the Chinese have allowed risk taking in many more aspects of their society, while the NoKo-s are much more rigid. You almost get the feeling that NoKo leaders suffer from a greater degree of inadequacy.

  • The other term for “rocket scientist” in NoKo today…defector…

    • @Ragspierre If they are lucky. Very, very few people ever escape NK. Take a look at “The Aquariums of Pyongyang” for a depressing read.

  • We’re not seeing this right….we need to see it the way the Obama administration would play it…..NEW JOB OPPORTUNITIES, OPENINGS AVAILABLE, APPLY NOW!!!!

  • As I see it, North Korea’s recent rocket test failure, is a win-win situation for them. Consider the first nuclear payload going up and falling back to earth within the narrow confines of North Korea. Boom. The North Korean regime could very easily say that it was a missile from the United States. The sad part is a good chunk of our supposedly American press would believe them. In the meanwhile, can this be considered anything but a black eye for Obama’s a foreign policy?

    • @Eric Florack Yeah, but, Eric, they could do that with a few truck-loads of HE any time.

  • You mean like Ryongchon Station?

    Your point is taken, but my point is that this is so much reflexive CYA on the part of Pyongyang, anymore… and it’s not unlike what we’ve seen from other socialist dictators in the past. What I’m suggesting is that if the pattern holds true….