Seongju residents keep protesting missile shieldSome 100 residents of Seongju County in North Gyeongsang protested a U.S. antimissile defense system in their county on Saturday, the first weekend rally since President Moon Jae-in ordered the deployment of four additional mobile launchers for the system.
Following North Korea’s second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 28, Moon ordered his aides to start discussions with their U.S. counterparts on deploying four additional mobile launchers for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, which would technically complete a full Thaad battery.
“President Moon Jae-in has left us all in confusion by ordering additional deployment of mobile launchers of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense [Thaad] system and then going on a vacation,” said a protestor at the rally at a town hall in Seongju County. “We have to speak and fend for ourselves now.”
Two Thaad launchers are currently operational in Seongju, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul, while four more are stored on a U.S. military base.
“There are rumors that the Thaad launchers will be deployed within this month,” said a resident. “Many of us are stressed because we don’t know when or how they will be deployed.”
The Korean government announced the Seoul-Washington agreement to deploy the U.S.-led antimissile defense system here on July 8, 2016, to counter military threats from North Korea. Its decision to deploy them in Seongju was announced on July 13, 2016.
Some 20 residents of Yeongyang County, North Gyeongsang, who have been rallying for years against the construction of a dam in their county, were also at the rally against Thaad.
“It is a difficult time for the people of Seongju, but they should never lose hope,” said a Yeongyang resident. “The people must stand up for their rights and for democracy.”
The group screened a video clip showing how they fought for eight years against the Yeongyang County Office’s plan to build a dam, which they thought was not profitable for their community. The plan was eventually scrapped.
“The Moon administration’s stance on Thaad is nothing more than a continuation of the previous administration’s policy,” said a college student at the rally. “Eight of us have traveled from Gangwon to support the cause of the Seongju residents and their right to survive, and for peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
Residents of Seongju have opposed deployment of the Thaad battery in their county largely over fear of health risks from the Thaad’s X-band radar. They also criticize the government for not having consulted them.
The Ministry of National Defense will conduct an environmental study on Thaad Thursday.
“We will work with the Ministry of Environment and experts to conduct the study,” said an official from the Defense Ministry. “Residents and organizations of Seongju will be asked to preside at the tests and studies.”
Defense Minister Song Young-moo said in a National Assembly meeting on July 31 that “radar from Thaad should not have strong health consequences.”
BY KIM JUNG-SEOK, ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]