By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press WriterMon Mar 10, 1:05 AM ET
South Korea named a female mechanical engineer Monday to become the country's first person in space by going aboard a Russian spacecraft, after Moscow rejected Seoul's first choice because of rule violations during training.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said at a news conference that Yi So-yeon will replace Ko San as the country's choice to fly on a Russian Soyuz capsule to the International Space Station in early April.
South Korea named Ko as its candidate in September, but Russia's Federal Space Agency asked for a replacement last month because he violated regulations at a Russian space training center, said Lee Sang-mok, a senior ministry official.
The Russian authorities said Ko took reading material out of the center without permission in September and lent a book without authorization in February, Lee said.
"The Russian space agency has stressed that a minor mistake and disobedience can cause serious consequences," Lee told reporters.
Ko will remain at the Russian space center and train with Lee, the ministry official said.
Lee will work aboard the International Space Station for about 10 days with two other cosmonauts including one female American astronaut, conducting scientific experiments. The mission will make South Korea the world's 35th country and Asia's sixth to send an astronaut into space.
South Korea plans to complete its first space center by the end of next year as part of a program to lay the technological and scientific groundwork for space exploration in coming decades.
Since 1992 South Korea has had 11 satellites launched, mostly for space and ocean observation and communications, according to the ministry.