North Korea became the 10th country to succeed in putting a satellite into orbit late last year after over a decade of strenuous efforts, during which the South hovered between developing its own rocket and importing technology and parts.
Pyongyang imported liquid-fueled ballistic missiles from China and Egypt in 1975 and began to fire its own ballistic missiles in 1984 by reverse-engineering the imports.
In 1998 the North secured core technologies for multi-stage rockets by firing a three-stage missile with a range of 2,500 km. Despite a series of failures since then, it continued to develop successors to the missile.
Prof. Jang Young-kun at Korea Aerospace University said the first and second stages of the latest rocket are the same as those as in 1998.
The South followed a similar path at the initial stage. In 1978, it succeeded in firing a missile with a range of 150 km, a copy of the U.S.' solid-fueled Nike-Hercules. But under an agreement with the U.S. that prevented it from using solid fuel engines on a space rocket that exceeds 1 million pounds in weight, Seoul shifted its attention to Russian rockets using liquid fuel.
As a result, it wasted over a decade and found itself outpaced by the impoverished North.