Saturday, August 1, 2009

First Statue of the First Korean Astronaut

Returning briefly to my old stomping ground, in front of Chungnam National University (at the Dae-hang-no and Han-bat-dae-no intersection of Daejeon, South Korea) I was surprised and delighted to see a new statue standing where some prodigiously kitsch seasonal monuments had once graced the dreary edge of cityscape.

This was a statue of first Korean astronaut, Yi Soo-yeon, who rode with the Russians into space last year (2008) to conduct various tests. There was controversy at the time over whether Soo-yeon really was an 'astronaut,' or simple a 'space tourist,' as the Republic of Korea paid handsomely for the spot on the flight mission. (The history of space tourism began in 2001, with multimillionaire Dennis Tito's jaunt in space -- see There was also controversy upon her selection for the job. A male candidate named Ko San was actually granted the job, over Soo-yeon, until his disqualification by the Russians for some rather murky business.

The weather was drear on the day of the statue sighting. Soo-yeon's likeness was still wrapped in bubble wrap.

I will have to ask my rocket scientist buddy who works at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) in Daejeon just what the hell Soo-yeon is carrying there - a vacuum transformer box? A further question - what is the significance of the missile behind and to her side?