Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Kim Jung-un riding a New Year rocket?

South Korea test-fired a solid-fuel rocket yesterday triggering panic over a UFO invasion, or a possible North Korean missile launch by Kim Jung-un, riding a new year rocket into the free south.

Seoul said in a statement that the launch was part of efforts to build a space-based surveillance capability and bolster its defence posture. The general public was not warned in advance because the launch involved sensitive military security issues.

Seoul plans to use a solid-fuelled rocket to put the nation’s first spy satellite into orbit. In March, South Korea conducted its first successful launch of a solid-fuel rocket. Solid-fuel rockets reduce launch times, have simpler structures and are cheaper to develop and manufacture than liquid-fuel rockets.

South Korean emergency offices and police received hundreds of citizens’ reports of witnessing a suspicious flying object and mysterious lights across the country, according to local media.

A twisty tendril of vapour could be seen snaking across the South Korean sky on Friday evening. Social media and Internet sites were alive with messages from citizens who said they saw a soaring object, rainbow-coloured vapour trail or other mysterious lights. Some posted photos and videos.

“What is this? Is this a UFO? I’m scared,” said one Twitter user. Another said they suspected it was Kim Jung-un riding a new year rocket, and worried about a war. Others suspected it was a drone light show or a supernatural phenomenon.

The South Korean rocket launch came four days after the South accused the North of flying five drones across the rivals’ border Monday for the first time in five years.

South Korea’s military detected the drones but failed to shoot them down, causing security concerns about its air defence network. The military later offered a rare apology for that.

Asia

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.