Moon’s Thaad reversal sparks protest by Seongju residents

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Moon’s Thaad reversal sparks protest by Seongju residents

Public protest grew stronger on Monday after President Moon Jae-in announced his decision to discuss with the United States the deployment of the remaining four launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) after Pyongyang fired its second-ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday night.

Key components of a Thaad battery, including a radar system and two missile launchers, were installed on April 26 on a former golf course in the village of Soseong in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul. The two launchers are currently operational, while four more are stored on a U.S. military base.

Although the Blue House insisted Saturday that the additional deployment will be temporary, the move promoted protests by Seongju residents, religious and civic groups, who held a rally near the Thaad base in Seongju on Sunday and then in Seoul.

The protesters initially planned to hold a press conference in front of the water fountain of the Blue House at 11 a.m. Monday, but the presidential office only allowed 10 protesters to participate.

As the two sides were arguing, the press conference was delayed for about 50 minutes. About 50 protesters demanded that they be allowed to approach the Blue House and scuffled with police.

The press conference was eventually held in front of the security post near the Blue House around 11:50 a.m.

“Thaad cannot block the North’s nuclear missiles,” one participant said at the press conference. “It will only complicate the nuclear crisis on the peninsula and worsen the situation. Relying on a military resolution, instead of finding a breakthrough by proposing simultaneous suspension of the North’s nuclear and missile tests and Korea-U.S. joint military drills, will only bring about another failure.”

The protesters also argued that Moon has disappointed his supporters.

“President Moon repeatedly stressed that his administration was elected by the candlelight protesters,” another protester said. “He stressed several times that Korea is a democratic country and democratic and procedural legitimacy is important, but all we got in return were an environmental impact study, just a formality to justify deployment, and an order for additional deployment that ignores law and procedure.”

“Our village is now facing another volatile situation,” said Lee Seok-ju, head of Soseong village in Seongju. “We will stop the entry of any construction equipment or Thaad components at all cost.”

He also criticized Moon for about-facing after only a few hours. The Ministry of National Defense said Friday it would expand Thaad’s environmental impact assessment and decide whether to deploy the battery based on the result, but the decision was reversed after 15 hours.

“I have lost faith in this administration,” Lee said.

After the press conference, the protesters moved to the Ministry of National Defense in Yongsan and held another rally around 2 p.m. Nine representatives also had a talk with Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk. “Moon once said the Thaad deployment is illegal,” said Park Tae-jeong, head of the Nogok village in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang. “But after he became the president, he stabbed us in the back.”

BY KIM JUNG-SEOK, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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