April 13th, 2012
04:33 AM GMT
(CNN) – The cost of Friday’s failed rocket launch by North Korea is estimated by South Korean intelligence officials at $850 million – nearly enough to feed about 80% of the population of the impoverished nation for a year.
The launch site cost $400 million and the rocket and payload cost an additional $450 million, a military official told Yonhap, South Korea’s state-affiliated news agency. Yonhap says the cash could feed 19 million for a year. North Korea has a population of 24.3 million in 2010, according to the World Bank.
"North Korea has suffered a deficit of 400,000 tons of food every year. So, the money could resolve the problem of food shortages for six years," the official said.
Documents reviewed by Britain’s Telegraph also placed the cost at $850 million, enough to buy 2.5 million tons of corn and 1.4 million tons of rice. The U.N. estimates North Korea’s entire 2011 harvest at 5.4 million tons.
"North Korea has suffered a deficit of 400,000 tons of food every year. So, the money could resolve the problem of food shortages for six years," an unnamed official told Yonhap.
CNN’s Ramy Inocencio spoke with Cheong Wook-sik at the Peace Network in Seoul who thinks the $850 million cost estimate is likely too high, accounting for the lower cost of North Korean labor and technology.
For comparison, Cheong says South Korea's satellite launch in 2009 cost $500 million. He added that the highest-paid technical laborers in North Korea – at the Kaesong Industrial Complex – get paid less than $60 per month. Their counterparts in South Korea – engineers and computer programmers – make about $5,000 a month. That's more than an 8200% salary difference.
Whatever the cost of the failed rocket, the world community agrees that North Koreans are going hungry. The U.N. World Food Programme estimates that in North Korea “one in every three children remains chronically malnourished or ‘stunted’, meaning they are too short for their age.” North Korea recently had to reduce the minimum height of soldiers to 1.45 meters (4 feet, 9 inches), the Los Angeles Times reported.
Moreover, the nation faces more sanctions as a result of the launch. The U.S. has already stopped planned shipments of 240,000 metric tons of food after North Korean announced its rocket plans.
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