Acting on Moscow's directive to drop its first choice to go aboard a Russian spacecraft, South Korea has named Yi So-yeon, a female mechanical engineer to become the country's first person in space.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced at a news conference that Ko San will be replaced by Yi So-yeon as the country's choice to fly on to the International Space Station next month with the scheduled date being 8th of April.

Lee Sang-mok, a senior ministry official said that Ko San who was named by South Korea as its candidate last September, was to be replaced as last month Russia's Federal Space Agency had communicated a breach on his part as per the training protocol at a Russian space training center.

The Russian authorities said Ko took reading material out of the center without permission in September and lent a book without authorization in February. Lee said commenting upon Ko's mistakenly sending a mission training manual home along with his personal belongings last September, which was sent back immediately.

As for the 'double whammy', Ko violated another rule last month by acquiring a spacecraft pilot's instructions that he was not authorized to look at.

The Russians emphasized the importance of abiding by the rules, as even small mistakes can bring about grave consequences in space, Lee added substantiating the decision made in response to the gravity of the matter.

Ko, 31, a technology researcher and a bronze medal winner in a 2004 national amateur boxing contest, has been replaced by Yi So-yeon, 29, who is finishing her doctorate in bio systems engineering.

The two were chosen as the finalists from among more than 36,000 applicants vying to become the first South Korean in space.

Ko will not be penalized and will remain at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City near Moscow and train with Yi as the backup astronaut.

Yi will work aboard the International Space Station as part of the Russian Soyuz capsule for about 10 days with two other cosmonauts including one female American astronaut, conducting scientific experiments. The Soyuz mission will be launched from Baikonur in Kazakstan.

Yi's journey in to space will make South Korea the world's 35th country and Asia's sixth to send an astronaut into space.

The honor to become South Korea's first astronaut will belong to a woman, as Yi eventually goes aboard the Soyuz capsule, Lee said.

A total of 48 women from the United States, Russia and four other countries have so far gone into space, the ministry statement said.

As part of a program to lay the technological and scientific groundwork for space exploration in coming decades, South Korea plans to complete its first space center by the end of next year.

Since 1992 South Korea has had 11 satellites launched, mostly for space and ocean observation and communications, according to the ministry.

South Korea's government is investing more than $20 million dollars in Ko and Yi's training to improve its national scientific competitiveness and enter the hierarchy of the world's space powers. The country has a satellite launch centre on the island of Oenaro off its southern coast.