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NCsoft CEO to Take Zero-Gravity Flight

NCsoft CEO to Take Zero-Gravity Flight
One may need extraordinary luck, strength, brains and good looks to get on a government-financed space ride like the one awarded to Ko San on Wednesday. For billionaires like Kim Taek-jin, however, there is a faster and less bothersome way: Buying his way into the mock flight experience.

Kim, the founder and CEO of NCsoft, will take a zero-gravity flight out of an airport in Texas this Friday, local time, the company said. He will be accompanied by 30 Koreans and some of the company's employees, who were lucky enough to be picked into the program.

The zero-gravity flight provides a weightless environment for around 30 seconds each time the Boeing 727 plane does a free fall from 10 kilometers above the ground. Passengers stay afloat in the air as if they are swimming in space.

``Everyone has his dreams. With dreams, they can accomplish anything,'' Kim said in a press release. ``I want to have the opportunity to think about my dreams once again.''

According to Forbes Korea, Kim is the 46th richest person in Korea with 300 billion won in stocks. He holds a 27.37 percent stake in the largest Korean game company. He handed over a 3.84-percent share to his divorced wife in 2005, and has kept a low profile since then.

The company didn't say how much the company is paying for the flight. But the company that operates the program charges $3,675 per person, indicating that the 40-man flight may cost the firm around $150,000.

The idea was proposed by Richard Garriott, a director of NCsoft's North American office who himself is a multi-millionaire and a big fan of the space trip.

``Garriott has big interests in the space experience and he suggested it to Kim,'' the company's spokeswoman said. ``We are not doing it for promotion. It is a social contribution program.''

With the satirical nickname ``Vomit Comet,'' the flight is used by NASA and other space agencies for astronaut training. Commercial programs started in 2004.

In April, the zero-gravity flight made the front page of newspapers when the famous British scientist Stephen Hawking took a ride at the invitation of Garriott. Garriott is the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott and has made sizable investments in various space ventures.

NCsoft announced the 30 lucky winners of the pseudo-space trip last month after receiving applications. People from all walks of life such as a housewife, a university professor, a former jet fighter pilot, a renowned mountaineer, an elementary school pupil and a fireman make up the team.

There are also rumors about NCsoft's ambition for further expedition into space _ to send its U.S. director to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket in the second half of next year, just like the South Korean government intends to do with Ko San next April.

``Garriott is rumored to be on board for a 2008 shot to the space station. It is to be announced in early October along with his new game, `Tabula Rasa.' He can then play his new game from outer space,'' a source said Thursday. ``Garriott has said publicly many times that he does not have the funds to buy his own $30 million ticket into orbit.''

The trip to the space station is commissioned by Space Adventure, a U.S. brokerage firm. The company recently said it has reserved two seats on the Soyuz craft for the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009, for one American and one Asian.

Garriott has said that he wanted to do the space trip by himself.

``When I was young, I used to say that I would immediately take the opportunity to leave for space and never return. I still believe that,'' he said in an interview with local newspaper Statesman.

By: Cho Jin-seo
Staff Reporter

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