Seongju Residents Rally in Seoul to Oppose THAAD and Demand Meeting with “Outside Agitators”
Over 2,000 Seongju residents headed to Seoul on July 21 to rally in opposition to the South Korean government and U.S. military’s decision to deploy the THAAD system in their county.
“We (Seongju residents) have come to meet the outside forces,” said the president of the Seongju Farmers’ Committee, Jae-dong Lee. Since the protests by residents began immediately following the announcement of the THAAD deployment to Seongju, conservative news outlets have been releasing false reports about “outside forces” influencing Seongju residents to oppose the deployment.
In response to the rhetoric around “outside forces,” leaders of Seongju residents responded by saying, “The Blue House and the US [decided] to deploy THAAD in Seongju. These are the outside forces that don’t live in Seongju. Today, Seongju residents have come to meet President Park Geun-hye.” Seongju residents were seen wearing blue ribbons during the demonstration on July 21. When asked whether this was to distinguish them from “outside forces,” one Seongju resident replied, “That is nonsense. This ribbon represents our opposition to the THAAD deployment. In the beginning, there was a suggestion that we should wear black ribbons symbolizing the THAAD as a ‘weapon of death.’ But later, more people suggested that we wear blue ribbons that symbolize peace.”
Many residents are concerned that the deployment of the THAAD in their hometown will result in dire consequences for farming in Seongu. In particular, they worry, Korean melon farming, for which Seongju is known, will be difficult to sustain with the radiation emitted by the THAAD’s high-powered radar in close proximity. Despite the pro-government media’s clamor about “outside agitators,” , many in the anti-THAAD struggle have voiced that this issue is not only about Seongju. The majority of people participating in the peaceful protest frame this issue not solely concerning Seongju but the whole Korean Peninsula.
During the demonstration in Seoul, Seongju residents demanded all political parties in the national assembly to officially renounce the THAAD deployment and form a special committee to block the government from fulfilling its unilateral decision to deploy the THAAD system. Additionally, Seongju’s Committee to Stop THAAD plans to collect 100,000 signatures for a petition addressed to the White House. However, as only about 50,000 residents make up Seongju County, the committee will require at least 50,000 more signatures from people outside of Seongju in order to reach the goal 100,000 signatures.
SOUTH KOREA NEWS
KCTU Organizes Mass Strikes across Country – Commits to Continue Fight in September and November
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions went on strike July 20, 2016. Across South Korea, over 50,000 members of KCTU-affiliated unions participated in this strike at 250 work sites in 14 regions. In Seoul, 10,000 workers came together in a rally to demand the end to the Park administration’s on-going enforcement of unjust labor contracts, expansion of the irregular labor force, crackdown on labor movements, and the government’s plans to implement performance-based termination systems across the public sector.
The Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) specifically raised the issue of the performance-based termination system. The chair of KRWU, Yeong-hoon Kim, stated, “The reality behind the ‘performance-based termination system’ is that it is a process to make way for privatization of the public sector. Plans for privatization of the rail industry have already been confirmed for July.” Kim also warned that railway workers will go on a strike if the government does not stop efforts to privatize public institutions and services. The last time KRWU workers went on strike was three years ago.
On July 22, another KCTU-affiliated union, The Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), launched the largest strike since 1997. 150,000 workers of KMWU participated in the strike demanding reform of the corporate conglomerates, termination of the government’s unilateral restructuring of labor forces, guarantee of adequate living wages, etc. Workers of Hyundai Motor Company, Kia Motors, General Motors in Korea, Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Heavy Industries made up the 150,000 workers who went on strike. In Seoul, workers of KMWU demonstrated in front of Hyundai and Kia headquarters as well as the Korea Development Bank to make their demands.
KCTU also announced that it will continue the fight by waging another strike in September and mobilizing a mass people power demonstration in November. KCTU plans for the mass people power demonstration to be held on November 12 with over 200,000 people participating.
North Korea Answers THAAD Deployment Decision with Missile Test
In what appears to be a response to the US and South Korea’s recent provocative decision to deploy the THAAD system, North Korea fired three missiles on July 19, 2016. The three missiles launched are thought to have been two Hwasong-6 (Scud) and one Hwasong-7 (Rodong) ballistic missiles. In a report by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the launch was part of an exercise intended to practice striking “South Korean ports and airfields where the US empire’s nuclear war equipment would be brought in.”
In this simulation of strikes against South Korean ports and airfields, where US reinforcements are to arrive in an emergency situation, the Hwasong-6 and Hwasong-7 were reportedly able to reach altitudes of 150 km and 500-600 km in distance. The THAAD has a maximum interception altitude of 150 km. According to Yong Suk Jang of the Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (IPUS), if North Korea is able to vary the range and trajectory of its missiles, the THAAD system can be rendered ineffective. The recent practice launches under restricted conditions showed that North Korea’s Hwasong-6 and Hwasong-7 could reach well beyond the altitude range of the THAAD system’s capacity to intercept missiles.
Russia acknowledged the most recent missile launches to be a warning against the US for its military provocations, most recently manifested through the deployment of the THAAD. With its potential ability to detect and track weapons stored in the region via its surveillance radar, the THAAD deployment is being perceived as an act of provocation against China and Russia. This endorsement of North Korea’s practice missile launches by Russia, however, is unprecedented. Since supporting sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear tests, Russia has shifted its stance toward North Korea after the U.S. and South Korean decided to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea.
UN Disavows Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Ruling on South China Sea
The United Nations (UN) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have come out to clarify that they have no connection to the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) international tribunal that determined China as having no historical justification for claiming the South China Sea. On its website, the ICJ issued a statement, “The International Court of Justice (ICJ) wishes to draw the attention… to the fact that the Award in the South China Sea Arbitration… was issued by an Arbitral acting with the secretarial assistance of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)… The ICJ, which is a totally distinct institution, has had no involvement in the above mentioned case and, for that reason, there is no information about it on the ICJ’s website.” Such a statement brings into question the legitimacy of the recent international tribunal’s verdict favoring the Philippines’ claim to the South China Sea.
The Manila Bulletin provided more background on the PCA by reporting, “The PCA is merely an international mediation agency that allows arbitration for non-state entities and individuals.” The report also added context to the temporary arbitral tribunal that made the verdict stating, “The arbitral tribunal is just a provisional organization set at the unilateral request of the Philippines for compulsory arbitration.” For more analysis about the ruling of the South China Sea and the broader geopolitical context, read K.J. Noh’s article published in ZoominKorea.
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