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South Korea grounds astronaut for security gaffe

No Soyuz gig following 'innocent mistakes'

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South Korea has effectively grounded the astronaut intended to be the country's first man in space for "violating security protocol" at a Russian training centre, the science ministry said today.

Ko San, 31, has been replaced by 29-year-old female biotechnology engineer Yi So-Yeon for the slated April Soyuz gig after he "removed sensitive training material" from the unnamed Russian facility.

According to Reuters, a South Korean official told a press conference that while Ko appeared to have made "innocent mistakes", the Russians had "emphasised the importance of abiding by the rules, as even small mistakes can bring about grave consequences in space".

The two South Korean potential astronauts were selected from among 36,000 candidates. Yi is now "top pick" to act as payload specialist with the seven or eight day mission to the International Space Station, with Ko demoted to back-up. ®

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