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Korea's first astronaut hopes to make peace with North

by Staff Writers
Star City, Russia (AFP) March 19, 2008
South Korea's first astronaut voiced hope Wednesday that her mission would bring peace with the north of the divided peninsula and said she had a spicy Korean feast ready for the crew.

"I will try and make peace between North and South Korea," Yi So-Yeon, 29, said at a press conference in Star City, a Soviet astronaut training centre in a snow-covered pine forest near Moscow, ahead of her launch on April 8.

"If it's helpful, as the first Korean astronaut I will try and help the North and South Korean problem.... I hope the North Korean people will also be happy with our flight," she said.

A biosystems engineering student, Yi is set to blast off for the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which Russia leases from the Kazakh state.

She said she will be bringing a menu of 10 Korean specialities with her, including South Korea's beloved pickled dish kimchi, and that she may bring a traditional Korean costume and even indulge in a bit of singing for the crew.

"I will make a big dinner for the foreigners. I hope they will enjoy the food," Yi said with a broad smile after passing a series of gruelling tests for the launch at Star City over recent months.

"I hope all the Russian guys and the American guys will like my singing."

She will be travelling to the ISS with Russian cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, who will also be first-timers in space. South Korea is paying 27-million-dollars (17-million-euros) for her 11-day mission.

Yi was selected earlier this month after engineering student Ko San, who had been due to fly to the ISS for South Korea, was taken off the mission for breaching rules by taking a manual out of the high-security training base.

"I regret this happened. I would like to apologise to the training centre and to the Korean people. I did not mean to violate the rules," 30-year-old Ko said at the press conference in Star City.

Yi said she will be carrying out 14 scientific experiments while in space, as well as producing educational material for children, adding that she would like to help South Korea's space programme after she returns to Earth.

Asked about her parents, Yi thanked her father for first inspiring her to study engineering and said her mother would pray for her mission. "I think I will be okay in space because God will stare at me and help me."

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First Korean astronaut 'honoured' about space mission
Star City, Russia (AFP) March 18, 2008
The 29-year-old woman set to become South Korea's first astronaut said on Tuesday she was "honoured" to have been chosen, as she took final tests at Russia's astronaut training centre.

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