Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) says female astronaut Yi So-yeon’s letter of resignation has been accepted.
Yi, who is now 36, traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) on board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2008, becoming the first Korean in space.
She was the runner-up in the government-run Korean Astronaut Program, but was chosen after Russia asked for a replacement for the original candidate, Ko Sun.
He was accused of removing sensitive reading materials during training – and later apologized for his actions.
A bio-systems engineer, Ms. Yi conducted 18 scientific experiments in space and had voiced the hope that people in North Korea to be “happy” about her historic space mission.
She has been on a leave of absence since 2012 while studying in the US, and has now resigned from the space program for personal reasons.
In a June interview with Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo, in which she announced her resignation, Ms. Yi said she was worried about her career prospects.
“I feel bad that I’m the one always blamed for the failure of the space business – even though there are problems with government policy toward the space business,” she said.
South Korea reportedly paid $AU29 million for Ms Yi’s mission, prompting criticism her mission was an expensive publicity stunt.
One conservative pundit has labelled her a ‘quitter’, while KARI is facing accusations it had chosen the wrong person for the expensive project and wasted taxpayers’ money.