North Korea’s rocket costs as much as a year’s worth of food

Posted on : 2012-12-08 10:28 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
South Korean ministry estimates the total cost of the launch, including propaganda and site construction

By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter

The Ministry of Unification estimated the cost of North Korea's two rocket launches this year to be nearly equivalent to a year's worth of food for the country.

An official with the ministry told reporters on Dec. 6 that North Korea had spent a total of US$1.34 billion on rocket launches since the Kim Jong-un regime took power this in April of this year.

"This is enough money to buy a year's worth of food for North Korea [5.3 million tons of corn], and we hope North Korea will put it toward solving its peoples’ food shortage," the official said.

The official broke down the costs into US$400 million for building the launch site in Dongchang Village, US$600 million for the two launches, US$300 million to build rocket equipment and facilities, and US$42 million for propaganda idolization of the Kim dynasty.

This comes after recent – and much higher - Ministry of National Defense estimates that North Korea spent US$1.74 billion on missile development and US$1.1 billion-1.5 billion on nuclear development for a total of US$2.8 billion-3.2 billion.

The North Korean food demand for one year is equivalent to 5.3 million tons of corn, which is valued at US$1.5 billion according to international market rates. The country's annual food shortfall is estimated at one million tons, or about US$300 million.

By this standard, the total of US$1.34 billion would be nearly equal to the annual cost of food and enough to cover the shortfall for four to five years.

Analysts said the ministry's aim in comparing the rocket development costs with the North Korean food situation was to highlight the immorality of the regime in Pyongyang.

But the announcement could also narrow Seoul's room to maneuver in future relations with North Korea. Indeed, experts called the announcement "inappropriate." Kim Yeon-chul, a professor at Inje University, said, "Telling North Korea to spend its rocket development money toward feeding its citizens is like telling South Korea to use its next-generation fighter budget toward free child care."

Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, said it was "unfair to demand solely that North Korea control its armaments when its rocket and nuclear development is closely connected with military tensions with South Korea and in Northeast Asia."

South Korea's military spending for 2011 was nearly 30 times as much as North Korea's.

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