The Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) is an emerging space-faring nation seeking to expand its space capabilities in the realms of science, communications, commerce, and national security affairs. The country has passed three important space milestones: the launch of Korea’s first satellite, Kitsat-1 (Uribyŏl-1) on 10 August 1992; manned space flight by Korea’s first astronaut, Yi So-yeon (Yi So-yŏn), on 8 April 2008; and the successful satellite launch with an indigenous Naro (KSLV-1) space launch vehicle (SLV) on 30 January 2013.
Korea now has ambitious plans to develop powerful space launchers, advanced satellites, lunar probes, and deep space exploration capabilities. Seoul’s space ambitions partially have been driven by an inter-Korean space rivalry,1 but the two Korean space programs have significant differences. This paper first will explain the legal and institutional foundations of the ROK space program before turning to the development of space launch vehicles, satellites, and deep space probes. The paper will explore ROK plans for space applications and space security, as well as the possibilities for international competition, conflict, and cooperation in outer space.