Seoul, Sep 4: Ju Kyu-chang, a central figure in the development of the North Korean ballistic missile programme at the beginning of this decade, died at the age of 89, state news agency KCNA reported on Tuesday.
Ju, who passed away on Monday and was described as a revolutionary soldier for his distinguished contribution to the country's defensive capabilities, died due to pancytopenia, a blood illness, Efe news reported.
Born in the eastern province of South Hamgyong in 1928, he graduated in engineering from the Kim Chaek University, one of the most prestigious technology centres in North Korea, and dedicated most of his life to weapons development.
Appointed under the leadership of Kim Jong-Il in 2010 as director of the Machine-Building Industry Department of the Workers Party of Korea and also a member of the Central Committee of the nation's only party, he played an important role in the successful development of the Unha-3 rocket.
The Unha-3, developed from the Taepodong Intercontinental ballistic missile program, was the first space transport vehicle to successfully launch a North Korean satellite into orbit when it was launched in December 2012.
The success of the programme was key to the subsequent development of North Korean liquid-fuel ballistic missiles such as Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, the most sophisticated intercontinental North Korean missiles tested successfully in 2017.
Ju, who was blacklisted by the US Department of Treasury in 2013, retired in 2015 when the regime, already under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, re-shuffled the department in charge of the development of weapons in North Korea.