Nobody can quite figure out why North Korea, a country that instinctively lies to its people, admitted to the embarrassing failure of its rocket launch this morning. After the Unha-3 rocket broke apart and fell into the Yellow Sea last night, Pyongyang's state-run news agency issued a statement four hours later saying the "earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit." According to a tweet by NBC News producer Ed Flanagan, who's inside Pyongyang, the Korean Central News Agency reported that "scientists and engineers are currently working to find out the cause of satellite launch failure."
That's quite the revelation. Since 1998, North Korea has repeatedly lied about its failed attempts at putting a satellite into orbit, which in each case have plummeted into the Pacific Ocean. As The New York Times' Choe Sang-Hun and Steven Lee Myers point out, "To this day, it still boasts that a satellite is in orbit, broadcasting patriotic songs praising Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il." So why isn't 28-year-old Kim Jong Un's regime spinning the failed launch as some kind of herculean technological success? There are a few theories :
He's setting a precedent of transparency Admittedly, this is the most Pollyannaish view, but some think the openness demonstrates an effort by Kim Jong-un to blaze a new trail. “The way North Korea quickly admitted the failure of the launch may have reflected the reigning style of Kim Jong Un,” Koh Yoo-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies in South Korea, tells The Los Angeles Times. “Unlike Kim Jong Il, who in the past hid his failures, Kim Jong Un called the foreign press and showed them what happened.”