Tag Archives: South Korea

Big earthquake in South Korea linked to geothermal power plant

South Korea’s second largest earthquake has now been linked by two different studies to the injection of water deep below the surface at a new geothermal power plant.

Perched on South Korea’s southeast coast and far from grinding tectonic plates, Pohang is an unlikely spot for a big earthquake. Before the geothermal plant’s two wells were drilled, there had never been an earthquake there of any significance, says Kwanghee Kim, a seismologist at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, and lead author of one study. But while Kim was monitoring the aftermath of an unrelated earthquake in 2016, he began to detect rumbles from Pohang. That prompted his lab to deploy eight temporary seismic sensors at the site, which were finally in place on 10 November 2017. He expected any quakes to be small—after all, the largest previous quake tied to enhanced geothermal power, in Basel, Switzerland, was just 3.4 in magnitude.

It took only 5 days to be proved wrong. “The Pohang earthquake was larger than any predicted by existing theories,” Kim says. Although some initial measures placed the source of the quake several kilometers away from the plant, Kim’s network revealed that the earthquake, and several of its foreshocks, all began right below the 4-kilometer-deep well used to inject water into the subsurface to create the plant’s heating reservoir. Indeed, it appears likely that the well’s high-pressure water lubricated an unknown fault in the rock, causing it to slip and triggering the quake, Kim says.

A second paper, by European scientists who used regional seismic data, reinforces the South Korean team’s results, in particular its shallow depth. That study also points out that an earlier 3.1-magnitude earthquake also took place near the well bottom, increasing the odds of a common source. Satellite measures of shifts in the surface after the November 2017 quake support that idea, says Stefan Wiemer, the second study’s lead author and director of the Swiss Seismological Service in Zurich. It’s clear the locked fault was storing energy that was waiting to be released, Wiemer says. “If that fault would have gone next Tuesday or 50 years from now, we’ll never know.”

The article notes that scientists had previously concluded that injecting water underground for geothermal purposes was okay (since it reduced use of fossil fuels) while doing the same for fracking (to obtain and use fossil fuels) was bad.. The data here actually suggests just the reverse, since fracking has never produced an earthquake as large as the 5.5 magnitude Pohang quake.

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China and South Korea agree to counter North Korea’s missile/nuclear program

Under pressure from the Trump administration to do something about North Korea’s out-of-control and aggressive nuclear and missile program, China has worked out an agreement with South Korea to take “strong action”.

It remains a question how serious this response will be, but it is also the first sign in a long time that China is finally taking the threat from North Korea seriously.

Update: China refuses acceptance of coal from a fleet of North Korean ships.

This new story confirms that China was serious about this ban when it announced it in February. Set to run to at least the end of this year, the loss of income to North Korea, very poor already, should have some influence there. Whether good or bad, however, remains unknown. One cannot expect irrational and mad individuals holding great power to come to rational conclusions.

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Angara gets a customer

The competition heats up: Russia has signed its first international contract for its new still-underdevelopment Angara rocket.

Leading Russian rocket developer, GKNPTs Khrunichev, signed up the first foreign commercial passenger for the light version of its new-generation Angara rocket. The South-Korean Kompsat-6 remote-sensing satellite (a.k.a. Arirang) was booked for a ride on the Angara-1.2 launch vehicle from Plesetsk around 2020. Equipped with a Synthetic Aperture Radar, SAR, the 1.7 ton spacecraft should be inserted into the Sun-synchronous orbit.

More here.

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The sad state of South Korea’s space sector

The new colonial movement: It appears that South Korea’s space industry is faltering, according to unnamed sources in that industry, and must be revitalized.

Many critics also point to the near absence of Korean conglomerates in the domestic aerospace scene as a major setback for the nation. “Since space businesses do not generate short-term revenues, most Korean conglomerates are reluctant to jump into the sector,” said an official from the aerospace sector. “Other nations, including the U.S. and Russia, on the other hand, have been running space programs for decades and have a large pool of seasoned engineers and talents, which is why the Korean aerospace industry is far behind in the race for outer space,” he said.

Samsung Group, the largest conglomerate here, previously ran aerospace business arm Samsung Techwin, now renamed Hanhwa Techwin after it was acquired by Hanhwa Group in 2014. Techwin was established in 1977 to develop flight engines. Samsung Group sold part of Techwin’s flight engines business to Korea Aerospace Industries in 1999 and pulled completely out of the aerospace sector in 2014.

What makes this story different from my previous two posts is that its focus is not building a government program (and the bureaucracy to go with it) but to find way to develop a robust private aerospace industry, competing for market share in the world market. With that approach, South Korea might actually launch something in the coming years.

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South Korea commits almost a billion dollars to AI research

In reaction to the recent Go victory by a computer program over a human, the government of South Korea has quickly accelerated its plans to back research into the field of artificial intelligence with a commitment of $863 million and the establishment of public/private institute.

Scrambling to respond to the success of Google DeepMind’s world-beating Go program AlphaGo, South Korea announced on 17 March that it would invest $863 million (1 trillion won) in artificial-intelligence (AI) research over the next five years. It is not immediately clear whether the cash represents new funding, or had been previously allocated to AI efforts. But it does include the founding of a high-profile, public–private research centre with participation from several Korean conglomerates, including Samsung, LG Electronics and Hyundai Motor, as well as the technology firm Naver, based near Seoul.

The timing of the announcement indicates the impact in South Korea of AlphaGo, which two days earlier wrapped up a 4–1 victory over grandmaster Lee Sedol in an exhibition match in Seoul. The feat was hailed as a milestone for AI research. But it also shocked the Korean public, stoking widespread concern over the capabilities of AI, as well as a spate of newspaper headlines worrying that South Korea was falling behind in a crucial growth industry.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has also announced the formation of a council that will provide recommendations to overhaul the nation’s research and development process to enhance productivity. In her 17 March speech, she emphasized that “artificial intelligence can be a blessing for human society” and called it “the fourth industrial revolution”. She added, “Above all, Korean society is ironically lucky, that thanks to the ‘AlphaGo shock’, we have learned the importance of AI before it is too late.”

Not surprisingly, some academics are complaining that the money is going to industry rather than the universities. For myself, I wonder if this crony capitalistic approach will produce any real development, or whether it will instead end up to be a pork-laden jobs program for South Korean politicians.

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Using Roman tactics to quell riots

An evening pause: The following was a drill by South Korean police to practice the techniques they use to control demonstrations and riots. Anyone who knows anything about Roman military tactics will instantly recognize what they are doing.

While this is not a real world situation, in an actual riot these techniques are certainly going to be effective. They also illustrate who is the civilized side in these disturbances.

Hat tip Rocco.

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South Korea unveils its own lunar rover

The competition heats up: South Korea has revealed its preliminary design for a lunar rover, set to launch in 2020 on a Korean-built rocket.

The article does not indicate whether this project has actually been approved or is merely being touted by Korea Institute of Science and Technology, which made the announcement. The cost to build it is estimated to be more than $7 billion, which seems quite exorbitant and over-priced.

Update: I had misread the conversion in the article from U.S. to Korean currency and thought the proposed cost for this mission was way more than it really is, which is about $7 million, a much more reasonable number. Thanks to Edward for the correction.

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North Korea on Wednesday closed access to the Kaesong Industrial Park, a joint factory zone with South Korea.

Bad news: North Korea on Wednesday closed access to the Kaesong Industrial Park, a joint factory zone with South Korea.

Experts on the Korean situation had noted that we shouldn’t take seriously the harsh language coming out of North Korea as long as Kaesong was in operation. Thus, this news is very bad indeed.

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North Korea has placed the first stage of its own rocket on the launchpad in preparation for a test flight later this month.

North Korea has placed the first stage of its own rocket on the launchpad in preparation for a test flight later this month.

Japan, South Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom (as indicated in the article above) have protested this launch, as well as Russia and China. Interestingly, no one has objected to the South Korea’s effort to build its own orbital rocket, which tells us a great deal about the differences between the two Koreas.

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Despite protests from the U.S. and South Korea, North Korea is continuing preparations for the launch an Earth observation satellite.

Despite protests from the U.S. and South Korea, North Korea is continuing preparations for the launch an Earth observation satellite.

North Korea recently entered into a food aid agreement with the U.S., which requires the Asian nation to halt long-range rocket launches in exchange for critical resources to stem the country’s widespread poverty and famine.

Officials from the U.S. and South Korea have said that the Unha-3 launch is a violation of this agreement, and could carry significant consequences. South Korean officials have said they may even shoot down parts of the Unha-3 rocket if they breach the state’s borders.

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