Korea's 1st Astronaut 'Happy to Do Something Else'

      September 04, 2014 10:50

      Korea's first astronaut Yi So-yeon has told a U.S. newspaper that being an astronaut was not her lifetime goal. "I just tried," Yi told the News Tribune in Washington State.

      She said she loves her quiet life in the U.S. after being so much in the limelight in Korea.

      She received an MBA from University of California, Berkeley and settled in Tacoma, Washington six months ago.

      She said she had never imagined she would become Korea's first astronaut and compared her selection process to the reality show "American Idol."

      "It was a huge national event," she said.

      Yi was chosen as a runner-up from 36,000 applicants in a 10-month, high-profile selection process, but the winner was later disqualified for alleged industrial espionage, putting her into space instead.

      Yi So-yeon speaks to visitors at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. /Courtesy of the News Tribune

      She took a leave of absence from the Korea Aerospace Research Institute in 2012 to pursue her MBA, emailing her letter of resignation on July 21 after marrying a Korean-American optometrist last year.

      She stirred up controversy at the time by saying she would choose her family over her job, angering many Koreans who blamed her for wasting W25.6 billion in taxpayers' money that was used to train her as an astronaut (US$1=W1,020).

      But KARI said there is nothing it can do about her departure, as she faithfully served out her contract.

      Now Yi volunteers once a week speaking to visitors at the Museum of Flight in Seattle about her experience in space. Local media reported that she has had a tough time finding a job since she is overqualified. Yi said she wanted a job that excites her rather than one that simply pays a lot.

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