(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 12)

The National Assembly passed a special bill for the establishment of an independent aerospace agency. While overdue, the introduction of legislation for the new space organization is appreciated, as it is anticipated to fulfill a role akin to that of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Assembly, criticized for a nine-month delay in addressing the bill submitted by the Yoon Suk Yeol administration in April last year, has finally taken action. We hope the envisioned new agency will facilitate the nation's ascent to the status of a space power. With the bill set to take effect four months after promulgation, the establishment of the new agency is scheduled for May in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province. This agency will operate under the Ministry of Science and ICT, supervised by the nascent presidential space commission. Korea has been viewed as an anomaly by the global community for being the sole G20 member without a dedicated space agency. The integration of esteemed research institutions like the Korea Aerospace Institute (KARI) and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) into the emerging agency signifies a strategic step. This alignment aims to enhance their capabilities for research and development while fostering increased international collaboration in space-related endeavors. The new bill grants the agency greater flexibility and efficiency by exempting it from existing laws on government organizations. Notably, the agency is now empowered to recruit researchers from the civilian sector without being bound by the current 20 percent limit imposed by law. Additionally, the removal of the payment ceiling system provides the agency the freedom to attract high-quality talent by offering competitive salaries. Following the successful third launch of the Korean-style Nuri rocket in May last year, Korea has now secured the technologies for satellites and projectiles, making it the seventh country in the world with such capabilities. Under the Yoon administration, a forward-looking space economy roadmap has been devised, outlining ambitious objectives such as a moon landing by 2032 and a Mars mission by 2045. While Korea forayed into space exploration later than some other countries, it is catching up with 74 nations that currently operate independent space institutes, according to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The establishment of the space agency has garnered significant attention and praise from the science and industry sectors. It is fair to assert that the nation's future prosperity is closely tied to the advancement of the aerospace industry. The expanding domain of space now extends beyond research and exploration to encompass defense, foreign affairs, and various other industries. As a result, the effective development of the aerospace sector plays a pivotal role in shaping the nation's overall trajectory in the evolving landscape of space-related activities. Private space enterprises such as Space X are rushing to establish spac e internet networks while looking beyond the moon to explore Mars. Startups are actively preparing for missions aimed at both clearing space debris and achieving unmanned lunar landings. The aerospace technology sector, in its nascent stage, holds the potential for a profound ripple effect across various industries, marking it as a strategic player in the future Blue Ocean. To swiftly bridge the technology gap with advanced nations, concerted efforts are essential to firmly establish the fledgling space agency. Beyond the construction of its headquarters, emphasis should be placed on attracting relevant businesses, enhancing settlement conditions for enterprises and employees, and securing a pool of talented researchers. Active engagement from the government and the political sector is crucial to ensuring the smooth inauguration and operation of the agency. Korea has a prime opportunity to leverage the establishment of the new agency to close the gap with nations at the forefront of the aerospace sector. Ut ilizing its competitive strengths in electronics, batteries, and artificial intelligence is crucial for this advancement. The government must adhere to its commitment to bolster the space development budget, increasing it to 1.5 trillion won ($1.14 billion) by 2027 from the 2021 allocation of 730 billion won. Ensuring the independent operation of the agency, free from undue influence by the administration and political sector, is imperative for sustained success. Source: Yonhap News Agency