North Korea's Latest Missile Gets Its Title From Mars, the Planet Named for a War God

GettyImages-824099504 (1)
Tokyo pedestrians on July 29 walk past a huge screen broadcasting file news footage of a North Korean missile launching. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty

North Korea tested yet another intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28, which leader Kim Jong Un said was intended to demonstrate the country's ability to attack "any region and place any time," including the U.S. mainland. And if that doesn't already scare you, the name of the missile might: Hwasong, which translates as "Mars," according to NK News.

Last Friday's rocket was Hwasong-14, and it flew about 620 miles for roughly 47 minutes. The rocket was also tested on July 4. But while the increased threats to the U.S. may be relatively new, the Hwasong moniker is not—it dates back at least to the 1980s. That's when Pyongyang developed Hwasong-5 by reverse-engineering Soviet Union weapons obtained from Egypt.

Related: Preparing for war with North Korea? U.S. launches another missile test amid escalating tension

"North Korean missiles have too many designations chasing not enough hardware," GlobalSecurity.org writes, explaining that missiles first had Soviet names but were then later identified by the village where they first appeared. Nowadays, "most North Korean missiles have been given an alphanumeric designator in the Hwasong sequence, the word Hwasong being a Korean word meaning powerful, innovative or sacrifice."

Others define the word 화성 to mean "fire star," referring to the planet Mars named after the Roman god of war. Mars the planet likely got its name because its red color looked like blood. As legend has it, Mars himself liked violence and battle. The god's Greek counterpart was Ares, whom the Ancient History Encyclopedia describes as "perhaps the most unpopular of all the Olympian gods because of his quick temper, aggressiveness and unquenchable thirst for conflict."

Sound familiar?

After Friday's missile test, for example, North Korean state news released photos of Kim in the launch room and statements threatening Americans.

"If the Yankees brandish the nuclear stick on this land again despite our repeated warnings, we will clearly teach them manners with the nuclear strategic force which we had shown them one by one," Kim said.

Hwasong is also the name of a gulag, or prison camp, in the reclusive nation.

But North Korea isn't the only country that has borrowed names from mythology for weapons, according to a 2013 article in the International Journal of Knowledge and Language Processing. The U.S. has used titles like Hercules and Valkyrie to label a transport aircraft and bomber, respectively, while the U.K. named an aircraft carrier after Hermes.

North Korea's Latest Missile Gets Its Title From Mars, the Planet Named for a War God | World