On March 8, International Women’s Day, South Koreans across the country voiced their opposition to the U.S.’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
Earlier this week, just one week after the South Korean Defense Ministry acquired the Lotte Golf Course in Seongju that would become the host site for the anti-missile system, the Pentagon transferred key parts of the THAAD battery, including two missile launchers, to Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek. South Korean opponents of the THAAD deployment expressed their outrage at the U.S. and South Korean governments for rushing the deployment even before the land is officially handed over to the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). Under the two countries’ Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), U.S. and South Korean officials must hold a series of talks and conclude an environmental impact assessment before the installation of the weapon system can begin.
In Seongju, 300 people–residents of Seongju County and Gimcheon City, as well as Won Buddhists–held an overnight protest in Soseong-ri, a village just 3.6 kilometers (2.2 miles) away from the deployment site. The residents vowed to block the illegal THAAD deployment even if it requires them to lay their bodies on the line to prevent the weapon parts from entering the deployment site.
After the rally, the protesters marched to the Lotte golf course and vowed to protest every night for the indefinite future.
(Video source: Newsmin)
March 8 marked Gimcheon City’s 200th consecutive day of candlelight protests. Kim Hye-kyung, the wife of opposition presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung of the Minjoo Party, joined the rally in solidarity. Lee Jae-myung is the only candidate who has taken an official stance against the THAAD deployment.
(Video source: Newsmin)
Women across South Korea took to the streets on March 8 to call for peace and an end to militarism. In Seoul, women’s groups came together to hold a peace rally and protest the THAAD deployment. The “No THAAD, No War: International Women’s Day Peace Action” brought together women fighting against various forms of war and militarism, including the US-ROK joint military exercises. They issued a collective statement demanding a halt to both the THAAD deployment and the ongoing military exercises: “The THAAD system cannot protect the safety of our citizens and the Key Resolve US-ROK military exercise only raises the risk of war.”
In Busan, women’s groups protested outside the U.S. consulate to demand the immediate reversal of the THAAD deployment decision. Referring to the THAAD as the “missile of death,” protesters expressed their concerns about the missile system’s threat to the security and economy of South Korea.
Overseas Koreans also oppose the THAAD system. Seattle-based activist and ZoominKorea contributor Simone Chun recently wrote:
My family holds a small ancestral orchard near Seongju. This fertile field is more than 100 years old, and has somehow miraculously survived both the brutal Japanese colonization and the devastating Korean War, and still serves to support our family. My grandmother had planted the orchard and passed it onto my late mother, who left it to my four siblings and me. Like my maternal ancestors, who protected our family by preserving the main source of family subsistence, I am determined to keep our family tradition alive.
THAAD deployment in Korea will be adjacent to residential and economic hubs–schools, hospitals, markets, businesses, and farms. It will threaten the very economic and social lifeblood of the communities it invades. Such callous disregard for an entire nation’s people represents immorality and arrogance on a scale rivaling that of the classic colonial mindset, in which men and women are dehumanized to a degree that negates even basic observance of their most fundamental rights. Human dignity and the well-being of our communities ought to take precedence over the ravenous and all-consuming greed of military-industrial conglomerates.
The chief beneficiaries of THAAD are corporations such as Lockheed Martin and the so-called public servants through whom they speak–those who have shamefully chosen to trample the sovereign rights of the men and women they have sworn to represent in order to advance their own self-serving needs. Koreans, who throughout their history have suffered the vicissitudes of war and occupation, are now suffering under the yoke of corrupt and dishonorable officials who sell their lives and well-being of their own sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers. It is truly a tragedy to behold.
In its typical autocratic fashion, the (soon-to-be-impeached) Park Geun-hye administration is railroading the THAAD deployment without consultation with the residents of the Seongju-Gimcheon area. The Defense Ministry says it will complete the deployment process in one to two months even though critics, including elected officials, demand the decision be reviewed and discussed in the National Assembly. And although some report that the environmental impact assessment for the deployment site won’t be completed until May, the Defense Ministry insists the THAAD system will be operational by the end of April.
Park Geun-hye’s impeachment verdict will be televised live in the next several hours, and it is clear the current/interim administration is in a hurry to complete the deployment before the upcoming presidential election in May. With the residents of Seongju and Gimcheon prepared to block the transport of the missile system, however, it may be difficult for the Defense Ministry to complete the deployment without delay.
*Update: The Constitutional Court delivered a unanimous verdict to impeach Park Geun-hye on Friday March 10, 2017 after 92 days of deliberation.
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