Did NK steal S. Korean missile design?

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Feb 21, 2018 - 16:04
  • Updated : Feb 21, 2018 - 17:18

When North Korea held a military parade earlier this month just as athletes from around the world gathered in PyeongChang to celebrate the Olympics, attention was on whether Pyongyang would showcase a new intercontinental ballistic missile to the world.

The international community was quite relieved to see little evidence of new ICBMs at what was described as a low-profile parade -- though North Korea showcased ICBM-class Hwasong 14 and 15, which it successfully test-fired last year.

However, there was one mysterious missile that slipped by largely unnoticed. Considered to have never been seen before, the short-range missile looked similar to South Korea’s Hyunmoo II ballistic missile, fueling speculation whether North Korea had stolen the missile design by hacking. 

North Korea showcases what appears to be a new short-range ballistic missile during a military parade on Feb. 8. The event was designed to celebrate the foundation of the North Korean Army. Yonhap.

“Our Hyunmoo missile appeared at the center of North Korea’s military parade,” said Rep. Chung Jin-suk of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, who is a member of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee.

“It is like North Korea introducing an advanced version of Hyunmoo missile and holding a military parade to mock us,” Chung said during a parliamentary meeting with Defense Minister Song Young-moo on Tuesday.

In a subsequent closed-door meeting with Song, the lawmaker pointed out the missile’s resemblance to Hyunmoo II, suggesting that North Korea hacked into the South Korean military system and stole the missile’s blueprint.

The Defense Minister acknowledged that the missile shown at the parade looked quite similar to Hyunmoo II in design, but that the North’s missile is a completely different missile because it uses a different guidance system, according to the officials who attended the meeting.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry also dismissed the speculation. In a message sent to reporters on Tuesday, the ministry said, “It is not true that South Korea’s Hyunmoo missile appeared at North Korea’s military parade.

The mysterious nature of the North’s missile has spurred debate among the experts. Some suggested that it shared a lot in common with Iskander missiles from Russia, which has a history of helping North Korea with its missile program.

Justin Bronk, a military expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said that North Korea‘s mystery missiles looked “enormously like Iskander missiles” and were not ones that North Korea had “been seen with before,” according to Business insider.

In an article contributed to 38 North, missile expert Michael Elleman said although the size and external features of the North’s missile indicate that it is based on the Russian Iskander, it also shares many features found on South Korea’s Hyunmoo-II.

Developed by the state-run Agency for Defense Development, Hyunmoo II plays a key role in deterring North Korea’s ballistic missile threat with pre-emptive strike capabilities. With its range of up to 800 kilometers, it has the entire North Korea within its range.

President Moon Jae-in attended the test firing of a Hyunmoo II last September. The missile launch took place almost immediately after North Korea fired off intermediate-range Hwasong-12 ballistic missile.

By Yeo Jun-suk (