Knee-jerk no more

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Knee-jerk no more

It is welcome that Kim Hang-gon, head of Seongju County in North Gyeongsang, expressed an intention to accept the deployment of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system there. Kim officially requested that the Ministry of National Defense consider a different site in the county. As he said, “Unconditional opposition to a national security issue — the very foundation of our nation’s existence — will only lead to a catastrophe. If the government pushes forward the deployment as planned, it will only lead to irreparable wounds for the local people.”

Earlier, a committee established to pressure the government to withdraw its decision to deploy a Thaad battery in Seongsan-ri, where our air defense artillery battery is located, voted for the idea of requesting the ministry to consider another site in the county for the deployment. The decision by the committee was a rational one, reflecting a mature recognition of our security concerns stemming from North Korean nuclear threats.

Still, there are a few local residents who oppose the deployment in their own backyard. But we believe the people of Seongju County and the government can find a win-win solution. One potential site for the Thaad deployment is the Lotte Sky Hill Golf Course in Chojeon-myeon in the same county. The site meets most of the ministry’s six crucial standards for the deployment: operability, safety of residents, equipment and air flights, efficient use of existing infrastructure, perimeter security, cost of construction and preparation time.

Above all, the new location can minimize any controversy over health risks from electromagnetic waves, as it is located at an altitude nearly two times that of the Seongsan air defense battery’s 383 meters (1256 feet) above sea level. The new site is much less densely populated than in Seongsan-ri, which offers an advantage in using existing infrastructure like access roads.

The remaining question is how to persuade about 2,000 residents of Nongso-myeon and Nam-myeon in the nearby Gimcheon City. Considering the possibility of some far-leftists intervening in the conflict, the situation could turn around at any time.

The defense ministry must do its best to explain to the nearby residents why it chose the new site and seek their understanding. If the government can earn their trust, people in Gimcheon City would be willing to accept the government’s decision broad-mindedly, just as their counterparts in Seonju did.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 23, Page 30
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