Getting the facts about the Korea-US Space Cooperation Agreement
1. What are the main contents and significance of the Korea-US Space Cooperation Agreement?
The agreement is a comprehensive agreement that defines the basic principles and procedure for cooperation between Korea and the US. It specifies the legal/institutional grounds for space cooperation in the private sectors of both countries.
The agreement describes the areas of cooperation (space exploration, space science, earth observation, etc.), forms of cooperation (spaceship and scientific equipment for payload, space communication, space application, scientific data exchange, etc.), customs, intellectual property rights, and exchanges of personnel, etc.
The agreement is significant in that it is the first agreement that the US has signed with an Asian country, and is opening up a new frontier for the Korea-US alliance.
2. Does it include direct technology transfer related to the development of a launch vehicle and lunar exploration?
This agreement comprehensively stipulates the content of and procedure for cooperation on projects, but technology transfer is neither a prerequisite nor the purpose of the agreement.
3. It is reported that Korea is preparing an MOU with the US for cooperation on lunar exploration. Will it be signed separately from the agreement?
The Korea-US Space Cooperation Agreement is intended to establish a comprehensive framework for space cooperation, which will be implemented through an individual MOU or agreement for each project. As such, Korea plans to sign a separate MOU with the US for cooperation on lunar exploration.
However, since this agreement enables the provided cooperation procedure to be commonly applied, the hassles (i.e. bureaucratic red tape, difficulties etc) of having to coordinate and change the statements after the review by the department or organization responsible for each project can be greatly reduced, thereby simplifying the cooperation and saving time.
4. The Naroho Program was assisted by Russia. Will Korea Space Launch Vehicle technology have to be changed if the cooperation with the US is extended?
The bilateral cooperation on launch vehicle is limited by the MTCR, the international non-proliferation regime. Therefore, it is not subject to this agreement.
In other words, there will be no technology transfer. Moreover, Korea is currently developing a Korea Space Launch Vehicle with its own technology and is not considering cooperation with other countries. Therefore, there is no need to modify the Korean launch vehicle technology.
5. Some observers have said that this agreement will help Korea catch up with the space technologies of China and Japan. Can we actually realize a ‘great leap forward’ in the advancement of space technology through this agreement?
The advancement of space technology is realized through continuous government assistance and national support. China and Japan have succeeded in reaching the global top level in space technology by making continuous and stable large-scale investments since the 1960s.
Although the Korea-US Space Cooperation Agreement will lay the foundations for cooperation with the US in the fields of space exploration, space science, space navigation and space application, it would be an exaggeration and somewhat farfetched to say that this agreement alone will put Korea on the same level as China and Japan in space technology.
6. What will Korea have to pay the US, whether monetarily or by other means, according to the Korea-US Space Cooperation Agreement?
The space cooperation agreement will be applied to projects for which Korea and the US have a common goal and mutual needs. In other words, each country will be responsible for expenses and technology according to a specific role, and thus Korea will not be obligated to pay the US anything.
Taking lunar exploration as an example, the current discussion involves US cooperation in deep-space communication, space navigation, and the development and verification of an earth station in Korea, while Korea will provide the space for NANS scientific equipment in the Moon Rover.
7. This agreement waives the liability of each country in the event of an accident during the space development process. Is this clause not disadvantageous to Korea?
The cross-waiver of liability is a special concept applied to cooperation in areas where the technical risks are very high. It is an essential clause that is included in all international agreements and contracts related to space technology and exploration. No international cooperation in space technology can be expected without this clause, which is also included in the space cooperation agreement that Korea signed with Russia, and in all international space cooperation agreements signed by the US. It is also a mutual waiver, meaning that it is neither advantageous nor disadvantageous to either country, but is rather equitably applied to both countries.
Note) Concept of Cross-over Liability
As the aeronautics/space area is highly risky and requires huge investment, it is difficult for a company or a country to satisfy all the technical and economic needs with regard to manufacturing. As such, the general practice is for multiple companies or countries specializing in specific area(s) to cooperate on the production of the final outcome.
In most cases, the technical manpower of parts suppliers is assigned to the system integrator, or the manpower of the system integrator is assigned to the parts suppliers to cooperate on the production of needed items.
In that case, the parties may become involved in a great number of litigations related to human casualties and property damages in the event of an accident if conventional civil liability is applied.
The concept of ‘cross-waiver of liability’ was introduced to avoid complex liability issues.
Under the cross-waiver of liability, each country (company) assumes responsibility for its citizens (employees) and will not sue each other in the event of human casualties and property damages.