Hours after North Korea flew a ballistic missile over neighbouring Japan on Tuesday (Oct 4), residents in a South Korean seaside town were startled to see flames leaping from a nearby military base and missiles soaring into the sky.
It wasn’t the start of a war, but a South Korean display of military force that went wrong in a blaze of burning rocket fuel.
Intended as a demonstration to deter North Korea, South Korea said it was conducting a nighttime drill with Hyunmoo-2C short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) when one failed shortly after launch and hit the ground inside the base in Gangneung, on South Korea’s east coast.
The missile was carrying a warhead, but it was not armed and did not explode, and there were no casualties, a military official told a briefing. The official apologised for causing residents to worry.
The burning rocket fuel lit up the night sky, however, sparking calls to emergency responders and fuelling social media rumours that went unanswered for eight hours until the military disclosed the drill and explained the fire.
“All of a sudden I heard a roar and it made me think something has gone wrong,” said Kim Hee-soo, a nearby resident. “So I looked at the area where they’ve fired Hyunmoo missiles before and there was flame and smoke and it was a total mess.”
A video that Kim shared on social media went viral overnight, and other residents chimed in with concerns and fears amid silence from military authorities.