North Korean Missile Test Accidentally Burns Worker to Death

December 8, 2017 Updated: December 12, 2017

The launch of North Korea’s longest range intercontinental ballistic missile on Nov. 28 appears to have accidentally incinerated a North Korean worker on the site, based on analysis of the original, unedited video of the launch. The blunder could indicate that the North Korean regime failed to anticipate the missile’s power, which is significantly greater than the regime’s previous missiles.

North Korea has presented the first test launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile on Nov. 28 as a great success, boasting that it has the range to hit key cities in the continental United States, such as Washington.

In the propaganda footage originally aired by North Korean state media KCNA, a human-shaped figure can be seen in the lower left corner of the video immediately before the powerful exhaust flames from the Hwasong-15 missile engulf the surrounding area.

Radio Free Asia has reported that while North Korea soon edited the footage to remove the trace of the man in subsequent broadcasts, some North Korean residents in Yangkang Province say they saw the footage and understood that some tragic blunder had happened. Hwasong-15’s launch video wasn’t made available online until a full day after the first broadcast, which further suggests that something had gone wrong.

The sources say the man actually turns his body away from the flame at the moment that flames engulf the area. The identity and the fate of the man are unknown, although it is unlikely that anyone could have survived the inferno.

On South Korean TV, analysts discuss the blunder by the North and speculate that the unfortunate man was a photographer working for North Korea’s state propaganda newspaper Rodong Sinmun, which dispatched many photographers to the site to capture the dramatic footage of Hwasong-15’s launch from different angles.

South Korean analysts also say that North Korea likely greatly underestimated the strength of the exhaust flames from Hwasong-15’s two engines, which are likely more powerful than any previous missile the North Korean regime has tested.

North Korea has a record of altering photos and video to suit its own propaganda purposes and to avoid potential embarrassment. Previously, other inconsistencies in the North Korean photos of the Nov. 28 launch have been pointed out by space expert Marco Langbroek, who showed that the photos supposedly taken from the same angle actually show different star constellations in the background.