|Sand-dust a 'huge problem'|
However, bizarrely the poorly-circulated and outspoken left-wing newspaper The Hankyoreh claims that the colonists never reached Mars and were in fact executed by the Military Government, despite the fact that the Government only recruited volunteers. Many politicians, who were involved in politics at a more junior level when the Military Government fell 22 years ago, have dismissed the claims as 'baseless'. "I think if people were disappearing off the street and never being heard from again you would have heard about it by now." said a Government source.
There is a growing uneasiness in Government circles though, that the 'New Seoul' colony, last heard from in 1987, may have been lost. "It was always going to be difficult for them to establish themselves", admitted a senior security source who'd been involved in the original recruitment campaign, "but we had hoped it was merely communication difficulties which prevented them from sending messages home. Now, after all this silence, perhaps we have to prepare for the worst". Some scientists say the colony should never have been built in a location known to be susceptible to sand-dust storms, but allegedly many of the colonists said it reminded them of home.
It is not clear what the potential loss of the colony may do for Korea's territorial claim on the Utopia Planitia region of the planet, or the strategically important Elysium Mons volcano to the East which is also claimed by the Japanese.
The Government plans to send an investigative mission to Mars "as soon as is practicable".
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