Gov’t moves to buy plot for Thaad

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Gov’t moves to buy plot for Thaad

The Ministry of National Defense is hastening to acquire Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club, the site where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system will be deployed, and on Wednesday agreed to exchange the rural golf course for government land in Gyeonggi.

Over the next month and a half, the government will conduct an appraisal of the military’s land in Namyangju, Gyeonggi, and Lotte Skyhill in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, to evaluate the cost of the plots, according to a defense official.

The Defense Ministry since early October has been in negotiations with Lotte International, which operates the Seongju golf course. Lotte International’s board of directors is expected to sign off on the transfer of land once the appraisal is concluded.

Seoul and Washington in July announced they will deploy a Thaad battery in South Korea to counter Pyongyang’s missile threats and later decided upon Seongju as the optimum location, prompting protests by local residents who are concerned about health effects of the battery’s powerful AN/TPY-2 radar. After another review, the Defense Ministry decided on Sept. 30 upon Lotte Skyhill as the new location for the Thaad battery.

Seoul and Washington are planning to deploy the battery by the end of next year. The ministry anticipates ownership of the golf course can be transferred as early as the end of this year or the beginning of next month.

Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, said earlier this month that the deployment will come “in the next eight to 10 months.”

He added that this unit will be larger than the one stationed in Guam.

The Seongju golf course has an area of 1.48 million square-meters (15.9 million square-feet), whereas the military land in Namyangju is only 200,000 square meters but is located 500 meters away from Toegyewon Station and is an easy commute to Seoul, giving it a higher appraisal value.

Based on this year, Lotte Skyhill is estimated to be valued at around 85 billion won, while the Namyangju military land is appraised at around 140 billion won. But if the state-owned land is appraised at a lower value than the golf course, the government may make a cash payment for the remaining deficit.

After the golf course is acquired, it will be transferred to the U.S. Forces Korea in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, between the two countries. Construction on the site will then begin to prepare for the battery’s delivery.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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