Avoiding a bloody clash

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Avoiding a bloody clash

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Chilgok County, North Gyeongsang, was surprised by news that Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) would be deployed in the area on July 5. The county government and council issued a joint statement that the people of the county and its authorities strongly oppose the deployment.

In the morning, it was reported that the U.S. Forces in Korea would likely deploy Thaad there in spite of the protest.

On July 4, residents of Eumseong County, North Chungcheong, another potential site, launched a committee opposing Thaad deployment in the region.

They pledged to “fight to defend peace and their right to life.”

Residents of other regions mentioned in the media as potential sites — Gunsan in North Jeolla and Pyeongtaek in Gyeonggi — are also organizing opposition movements.

One of the major reasons for the opposition is a health concern. People believed Thaad emits strong electromagnetic waves. In fact, Chilgok County authorities claimed that when Thaad’s radar is at a 130 degree angle, its electromagnetic waves can reach as far as 5.5 kilometers.

Even though the Ministry of National Defense argues that everyone is safe as long as they stay 100 meters from Thaad, there are no direct or indirect efforts to persuade residents of this.

Ministry officials are silent on anything involving Thaad for security reasons. With working-level negotiations between Seoul and Washington ongoing for three months now, the Ministry of Defense continues to say that nothing has been confirmed. The ambiguity is fanning the concerns of residents into panic.

But a Defense Ministry spokesman told the media on July 5 to refrain from reporting on the issue until the government makes an official announcement. Deeming Thaad to be a serious national issue, the administration wants everyone to follow the government’s wishes. They are understandably concerned about Korea’s relationship with neighboring countries should Thaad be deployed.

But average Koreans are worried the government is repeating past mistakes.

In 2006, residents of Daechu-ri Village in Gyeonggi Province were involved in a bloody clash with government forces over the relocation of a base in Pyeongtaek.

Residents opposed the land expropriation and compensation offered. Most refused to voluntarily give up their land, so the Ministry of Defense seized it and prohibited residents from farming there starting in the winter of 2005. The clash occurred when residents tried to start farming again in the spring.

Citizens should no longer have to make concession whenever the military demands. When the government engages in closed-door negotiations with the United States and picks a site without making any efforts to persuade the people, deadlock or chaos are the only outcomes.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 6, Page 29


*The author is a political and international news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JEONG YONG-SOO

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