The South Korean Defense Ministry announced today that the Lotte Skyhill golf course in Gimcheon City, North Gyeongsang Province will be the “final site” for the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
Seoul and Washington had originally chosen the Seongsan anti-aircraft missile base in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province to host the U.S. missile shield. The government’s changed decision comes after two months of staunch and vocal opposition from the residents of Seongju.
Immediately after the government’s announcement on Friday, September 30, approximately one thousand Gimcheon residents gathered outside Gimcheon Station to protest the decision at their 41st nightly candlelight vigil against THAAD deployment. Despite a downpour, even elderly farmers from the town of Nongso, which is merely 1.5 kilometers away from the Lotte Skyhill golf course, donned raincoats and held up their candles.
Nongso resident and farmer Baek Chang-im (age 66) presented his wrinkled hands and said, “I voted for President Park Geun-hye with these hands. For the past forty years I voted for [the conservative party]. Now I want to cut off my fingers. THAAD is absolutely unacceptable. I attend the candlelight vigils every night, but the truth is not being widely told. They say we are a democracy, but it doesn’t feel like it. President Park Geun-hye and [Gimcheon National Assembly] Representative Lee Cheol-woo should step down immediately.
During the open mike session, Nongso resident Jeong Mun-su (age 60) said, “The president’s role is to protect the lives and wealth of the nation’s people. But she’s always saying we have to accept the THAAD system because we are under the threat of North Korea’s nukes. Is this really the best way to make us safe? We need to impeach President Park Geun-hye for abandoning the responsibilities of a president as defined in the constitution and provoking war and military tension.” In response, the crowd replied in unison, “Impeach!”
Jeong added, “Gimcheon is not the one that’s sinking. It’s the Saenuri ferry that’s sinking in Gimcheon and in the Republic of Korea. With the THAAD decision, the Saenuri Party and the ruling forces are going down. The mayor and city council members of Gimcheon should abandon the Saenuri ship right away if they wish to protect their lives and future. Don’t become the puppets of crooks!”
“Abandon the Saenuri Party! Seongju and Gimcheon unite to stop THAAD deployment!” the crowd chanted. The chair of the Gimcheon branch of the Korean Peasants League, Park Gyeong-beom announced that representatives of Seongju and Gimcheon will meet next week in an emergency meeting to discuss a plan to join forces to block the THAAD deployment.
In Gimcheon, two task forces have formed to oppose THAAD deployment. The Gimcheon Citizens Task Force, which opposes THAAD deployment anywhere on the Korean peninsula, is composed of Gimcheon citizens and civic groups.
On the other hand, the Gimcheon Task Force to Oppose THAAD Deployment at the Seongju Country Club – primarily composed of Gimcheon city council members of the Saenuri Party – does not oppose THAAD deployment per se but is only against its deployment at the Lotte Skyhill golf course, which abuts Seongju and Gimcheon.
Gimcheon Mayor Park Bo-saeng recently rejected a Defense Ministry request for a meeting and declared, “The candlelight vigils must continue.” The two task forces are reportedly discussing plans to join forces.
Previous Updates on THAAD Opposition
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