Asahi has an interesting story sourced to someone in North Korea (北朝鮮関係筋).  The Strategic Rocket Museum (!) in Pyongyang may have an Unha-3 rocket, like the one launched in December, labeled the “Hwaseong-13.”




Interesting story, but I don’t think so.  Hwaseong-13 almost certainly refers to a different rocket.

Hwaseong (화성) would indicate the rocket is a bit of military hardware. While the US names North Korean missiles after a nearby place  – yielding nifty names like Nodong– the North Koreans themselves use Hwaseong, which means Mars.  (For export, strangely enough, the North Koreans appear to use “Scud,” which is a US name for the Soviet missile.)

If the Unha had a Hwaseong number, that might imply North Koreans thought of the Unha as a military item. Hence the story.

However, the best evidence would suggest a different rocket, the KN-08, is numbered Hwaseong-13.  High resolution photographs of the Transporter-Erector-Launchers that paraded through Kim Il Sung Square in April and translated by my colleague Hanah Rhee show the North Korean badges with the name and number of the type of missile.  (See above, or read the post, KN-08 Markings.)

Maybe something got lost in translation? Perhaps the Unha has a different Hwaseong number.  Perhaps the  museum is mistaken.  (I am prepared to accept that Pyongyang’s strategic rocket museum might not be up to Alex Wellerstein’s standards.) Or, perhaps, the whole story is baloney.  Hard to tell.

I am still amazed that reporters don’t check these stories out or at least google “Hwaseong -13″ before publishing.