September 12, 2014:
North Korea has fired more and more unguided long-range rockets in the last few years. These are fired into coastal waters, usually off the east coast (where there is less shipping and fishing boat activity). North Korea usually fires rockets as a form of protest or simply to get some media attention. North Korea has several thousand of these long range rockets and many of them are old and need to be refurbished, used or taken out of service. That’s because the solid fuel rocket motors degrade with age as do other components. At a certain point these rockets become unreliable and even dangerous to their crews if used. North Korea can’t afford to refurb a lot of these old rockets, so firing some of them for propaganda purposes makes sense. Many of these firings go unreported in North Korean and foreign media and South Korean and American officials (both military and diplomatic) have learned to ignore all these firings because they don’t really mean anything and never did. North Korea has been doing this sort of thing for decades and it’s all about Information War, not more conventional conflict.
Ballistic missiles are also fired off in this manner, although these missiles are usually liquid fueled, more expensive to build and maintain and have a longer range. These missiles also get old and too expensive to maintain. Many of the oldest ones, especially the shorter ranged ones based on the old (1950s) Russian SCUD design. Some media misinterpret this as missile tests, which they rarely are. Technical analysts have noted that many of the more recent ballistic missile designs, which can reach far out into the Pacific and even launch small satellites, are failing at a higher rate than Western, or even Russian or Chinese ballistic missiles.
The conclusion is that while the North Koreans obviously still have a missile development program they don’t have sufficient money to perfect their tech rapidly, or even mass produce they stuff that does work. Thus the North Korean ballistic missile program is, like so much else in North Korea, more style than substance.