( dpa ) - South Korea on Monday changed its first citizen to be sent into space less than a month before the takeoff, replacing the man it had originally selected with a woman on a Russian request.
Nanotechnology engineer Yi So Yeon, 29, is to now fly in a Russian Soyuz capsule to the International Space Station in early April after Russian space officials asked for the original South Korean candidate, Ko San, be replaced after he violated training regulations, South Korea's Education, Science and Technology Ministry said.
Both Yi and Ko have been undergoing the same preparations for the mission at a cosmonaut-training centre outside Moscow, so no problems were expected because of the personnel change, the ministry said.
Ko, 31, a computer engineer, was selected over Yi in September to go on the mission after a monthlong training programme in South Korea and Russia. The two were chosen as the finalists from among more than 36,000 applicants vying to become the first South Korean in space.
But now Yi is scheduled to team up with two Russian cosmonauts for a Soyuz mission that is to launch April 8 from Baikonur in Kazakstan, according to the national news agency Yonhap.
She is to spend seven to eight days at the space station, conducting scientific experiments.
She and Ko both work for the Korean Aerospace Research Institute.
South Korea's government is investing more than 20 million dollars in Ko and Yi's training to improve its national scientific competitiveness and enter the hierarchy of the world's space powers. The country has a satellite launch centre on the island of Oenaro off its southern coast.