Residents of Seongju and Gimcheon as well as Won Buddhists have pitched tents outside the Minjoo Party headquarters in Seoul and vow to stay until the main opposition party agrees to oppose the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system. They have been there since January 11 to demand the party officially adopt opposition to the THAAD deployment as its party platform. They also demand the formation of a special committee in the National Assembly to pressure the South Korean government to reverse its agreement with the U.S. to deploy the THAAD missile system.
With Park Geun-hye’s impeachment under review by the Constitutional Court, the anti-THAAD movement is thinking ahead to the next administration. Currently, the Minjoo Party’s Moon Jae-in is a front-runner for the upcoming presidential election, which could be held as soon as April of this year. Should Moon become the next president, he and his Minjoo Party cabinet members will be responsible for answering to the U.S., which has historically imposed its military agenda on the Korean Peninsula, including plans for the THAAD deployment.
The Minjoo Party, however, has yet to adopt an official party platform on the THAAD issue. While certain individual representatives, like the Minjoo Party’s chief Choo Mi-ae, have expressed their concerns about the potential threat to peace posed by the THAAD deployment and have questioned the necessity for such a missile system, the party as a whole has failed to offer a definitive position on the issue. A recent Newsis interview with presidential candidate Moon Jae-in further muddled the Minjoo Party’s position on the issue.
On January 15, Moon said to Newsis that he does not think it is possible for the South Korean government to renege on its THAAD deployment decision with the U.S.. Despite being critical of the Park administration’s hasty and unilateral decision on the THAAD deployment, Moon expressed no intent to block the deployment. He is simply calling for the deployment to be paused while the constitutional court deliberates Park’s impeachment and until the next administration takes office.
People in the fight to oppose the THAAD deployment expressed their outrage against Moon’s comments. A lawyer from Minbyun (Lawyers for a Democratic Society, of which Moon was once a member) questioned Moon’s view of the issue — “Are you saying that a promise made with the U.S. is unbreakable while a promise made with [South Korean] citizens is unimportant?”
On January 16, the sixth consecutive day of the protest directed at the Minjoo Party lawmakers, Won Buddhists, Seongju and Gimcheon residents demanded a meeting with the Minjoo Party chief, Choo Mi-ae. A staff person of Choo’s office informed the residents that Choo would meet with them on Thursday, January 19. “How much longer must we wait?” the residents demanded to know, “Are you saying that six days [of waiting] is not enough so we have to wait another three days?” They added, “We need this meeting immediately so that we can hear Representative Choo’s position on the THAAD deployment issue.”
The persistence of the residents paid off, and Choo Mi-ae met with the residents on January 17. According to the residents who met with Choo, although she agreed that the THAAD system would be ineffective against North Korean missiles and expressed her opposition to the deployment, she did not confirm that her party will adopt an official platform on this issue. She did, however, promise to discuss with fellow lawmakers in the Minjoo Party the formation of a special committee in the National Assembly to address the THAAD deployment issue.
Meanwhile, due to pressures from China, Lotte, which owns the golf course where the US Forces in Korea (USFK) wants to deploy the THAAD system, is hesitant to finalize its deal with South Korea’s Defense Ministry to give up the golf course in a land swap. The Defense Ministry is awaiting a final approval from Lotte’s board of directors to acquire Lotte’s land and hand it over to the USFK. However, Lotte, feeling pressure from China, which has been strongly opposed to THAAD deployment in Korea and recently ordered an audit of Lotte’s businesses in China, has chosen to delay the decision. With significant investments in China, Lotte cannot ignore the neighboring country’s economic leverage. The deal may not be finalized until early February, later than expected by the Defense Ministry.
By ZoominKorea staff
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