South Korean residents living near a golf course, where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is set to be deployed, came up to the capital Saturday to demand an immediate withdrawal of the deployment decision.
On Feb. 27, Lotte Group, South Korea’s fifth-biggest family-controlled conglomerate, approved a contract with the defense ministry to exchange its golf course in the Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province for military land near Seoul.
Just a week after the land swap deal, two mobile launchers and part of the THAAD equipments arrived at the country and were transported to an unknown base of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). The arrival boosted media speculation that the THAAD battery could be installed as early as next month.
One THAAD battery is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, an X-band radar and a fire and control unit.
Residents of Seongju and Gimcheon city, which borders the county and faces the THAAD site, held a protest rally on Saturday in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, where candlelit vigils have been held every Saturday night since late October.
The locals chanted “THAAD Out, Peace In,” one of the famous slogans to oppose the THAAD deployment that was announced in July last year. One of placards seen on the streets reads “No THAAD, No War, Peace Treaty Now.”
They took turns to explain through loudspeakers why the THAAD battery in South Korea destroys peace and why the U.S. missile shield cannot protect the country from missile threats of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
In the same square meters away from the anti-THAAD rally venue, peace activists from about 10 advocacy groups staged an event, titled “The Day of Peace Action,” to oppose the deployment of THAAD, which they said threatens peace in the Korean Peninsula.
Participants held a blue pinwheel, which symbolizes peace, in their hands, shouting for opposition to THAAD, “the U.S. weapons for the United States,” as well as to the ongoing U.S.-South Korea spring war games that kicked off on March 1. The DPRK has denounced the joint military exercises as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion.
All people in the square celebrated the constitutional court’s Friday decision to force President Park Geun-hye from office. Park became the first South Korean leader to be ousted through impeachment.
However, Seongju and Gimcheon residents showed a complex emotion over the president’s ouster as the THAAD deployment process is still going on. They said the impeachment would only be completed when the THAAD decision is reversed.
Some expected a slower deployment process as the next government comes soon, while others still worried that the process could carry on as scheduled in the absence of a government official who takes responsibility for any change in the procedure.
“The Park Geun-hye government illegally pushed the THAAD installation without any consensus from people. The deployment lost its legitimacy with Park’s ouster,” said Kim Jong-kyung, co-chair of the anti-THAAD committee of Gimcheon residents.
Kim predicted an overall re-examination of the THAAD deployment decision in the political arena, forecasting that distorted local media reports on the U.S. missile defense system would be changed.
Yoon Myung-eun, a duty director of the anti-THAAD committee in Soseong-ri in which the golf course is located, told Xinhua that she cannot just enjoy Park’s ouster because a part of the THAAD battery already arrived here and the deployment process is still going on.
“Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn is still serving as acting president. Foreign and defense ministers are still keeping their public posts. Only Park Geun-hye alone was gone,” said Yoon who forecast the THAAD supporters would push the deployment procedures.
She said the THAAD decision must be dropped by force of candlelight vigils and people power. Enditem