The Korea Herald

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N. Korea internally tight-lipped on 2nd satellite launch failure

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Aug. 25, 2023 - 12:21

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People watch a news report on North Korea's failed satellite launch at Seoul Station on Thursday. (Yonhap) People watch a news report on North Korea's failed satellite launch at Seoul Station on Thursday. (Yonhap)

North Korea's state media, which is primarily meant for internal audiences, has not yet reported on its second failed attempt Thursday to launch a purported spy satellite into orbit.

The action shows a stark contrast with North Korea’s prompt external acknowledgment of the launch failure, detailed explanations of the primary cause, and the announcement of its intention to conduct a third satellite launch in October via the Korean Central News Agency.

The KCNA, which predominantly targets international audiences, issued the statement at 06:15 a.m., around two and a half hours after the launch.

North Korea launched a Malligyong-1 spy satellite using a Chollima-1 space launch vehicle on Thursday at around 03:50 a.m. local time at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in the Tongchang-ri area of North Pyongan Province.

But as of Friday morning, the internal-oriented state media, including the Rodong Sinmun -- an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea -- as well as Korean Central Television, and the domestic radio network Korean Central Broadcasting Station, have not reported on the unsuccessful satellite launch.

Observers noted that the failed launch could further compound the challenges confronting the Kim Jong-un regime. These challenges stem from a prolonged economic downturn, as well as the detrimental impacts of heavy rainfall and typhoons on crop production amid existing food shortages.

"Given the recent challenges in the agricultural sector caused by flooding, the failure of the satellite launch is likely to contribute as an additional source of pressure on the regime," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

The absence of coverage by North Korean internal-oriented media regarding the botched satellite launch is not a novel occurrence.

The KCNA promptly acknowledged the failure of its first-ever launch of a spy satellite around two hours and 40 minutes later on May 31. But state media mainly targeting local people refrained from revealing the failure for a considerable period of time.

The initial acknowledgment of the first failure in state media oriented toward the domestic audience occurred on June 19, during the coverage of the two-day plenary session of the Party Central Committee, which was attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim labeled the botched attempt to launch a spy satellite as the "most serious" shortcoming in the first half of the year, marking the first time such an acknowledgment was made to the general public. But at the same time, state media also publicly committed to expeditiously carrying out another launch.

The earlier example hinted at the potential for North Korea to acknowledge its second unsuccessful spy satellite launch through internal-oriented media prior to the third launch planned for October.