north koreas kim jong un keeps aiming his missiles at this most hated rock - North Korea's Kim Jong Un keeps aiming his missiles at this 'most hated rock'

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) – As Mr Kim Jong Un unleashed his biggest barrage of missile tests last month, one place suffered the most: a barren pile of rocks whose name means “No Man’s Land”.

Alsom Island, located 18km off North Korea’s north-eastern coast, has been targeted in more than 25 missile strikes since 2019.

It was the destination of eight rockets in January alone, as Mr Kim carried out the most launches since he took power in a signal of defiance against a United States-led sanctions regime intended to punish Pyongyang for developing such weapons.

The South Korean military has closely watched the outcropping’s bombardment, especially after North Korea built a 10m-wide domed structure there in August 2020, according to opposition lawmaker Yoon Ju-kyeong.

Such a structure could be used to test bunker-buster bombs, her office said, while others have speculated it might serve as a stand-in for a government building in Seoul.

So much firepower directed at a single spot has prompted jokes that Mr Kim must have a grudge, with weapons expert Joseph Dempsey quipping on Twitter that Alsom was North Korea’s “most hated rock”.

Mr Dempsey, a research associate for defence and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said the island provided a useful proving ground for a new generation of short-range weapons systems, such as its KN-23, that can strike all of South Korea.

“This relatively small and well-defined target presents a good way to demonstrate the apparent increased accuracy of these systems, particularly for propaganda purposes,” said Mr Dempsey.

In recent weeks, Mr Kim has honed his newest short-range ballistic missiles on Alsom, some of which have slammed into the rocky outcrop at speeds possibly in excess of 3,000kmh.

North Korea also used the site to prove the accuracy and manoeuverability of long-range cruise missiles that it said flew in patterns for 1,800km before hitting their targets on Jan 25. It released photos of the impact.

The island is situated far enough off the coast to provide a buffer for errant rockets and close enough to expect only North Korean vessels would be in the area.