Grounded Astronaut Says Sorry

STAR CITY, Moscow Region -- The man who lost the chance to be South Korea's first man in space apologized for breaking the rules at the Star City training base.

Ko San, 31, was replaced last week as a primary crew member for a Soyuz spacecraft flight scheduled for April after the Federal Space Agency said he had removed sensitive material from the cosmonauts' training center.

"I am sorry for what has happened and want to apologize to the [training center] and the Korean people," Ko said at a news conference.

The space agency said Ko had taken training manuals to his dormitory. South Korean officials told Korean reporters last week Ko had accidentally sent a pilot's training manual home to Seoul together with some personal belongings.

Both the Federal Space Agency and training center officials refused to comment on Ko's reassignment to stand-by status, citing a contractual provision whereby all news concerning Korean crew members is to be handled by South Korea.

South Korea's Education, Science and Technology Ministry paid Russia $25 million in December 2006 for the right to send a Korean into space. Seoul choose Ko and replacement, Yi So-yeon, from 35,000 candidates in the nationwide selection process.

The ministry did not assign blame. Ko said his mistakes were a result of overenthusiasm, not malice.