South Korea’s first astronaut officially quits

August 12, 2014
South Korea's first astronaut Yi So-yeon. (Yonhap file photo)

South Korea’s first astronaut Yi So-yeon. (Yonhap file photo)

DAEJEON (Yonhap) — South Korea’s the first astronaut has left the state-run research institute for personal reasons, the institute said Tuesday, bringing to an end the country’s first astronaut program and sparking criticism of government waste.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said Yi So-yeon sent a letter of resignation by mail and the offer was accepted.

She had been on a leave of absence since 2012 to study for an MBA in the U.S.

The 36-year-old scientist became the first Korean in space with two Russian cosmonauts in 2008 under the 26 billion won (US$25.4 million) space project led by KARI.

Yi’s resignation triggered claims that KARI had chosen the wrong person for the expensive project and wasted taxpayers’ money.