Photo - Newsmin
Photo - Newsmin

Defense Ministry Announces Gimcheon as “Final” THAAD Deployment Site

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. 

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Baek Minjuhwa, daughter of Baek, speaks at rally at which citizens presented joint declaration to demand investigation of excessive force used by police against Baek; Sign at top reads: "Government Apologize, Punish Those Responsible, Abolish Use of Water Cannons."

Family and Supporters of Farmer Baek Nam-gi Stand Firmly against Police Warrant for Autopsy

On September 28, over 1,000 supporters of farmer Baek Nam-gi and his family camped out overnight in and around the funeral hall building where Baek’s body is being kept. Upon hearing news of a court decision to grant a warrant for autopsy to South Korea’s National Police Agency (NPA), supporters of the farmer activist prepared to stand their ground against a potential raid by the police. Noticeable tensions arose in the funeral hall building in anticipation of any provocation by the police now free to seize the body of Baek with no legal restriction in its way.

The NPA and the Prosecutor General’s office reapplied for the warrant after being denied previously by the court on September 25. During the reapplication process, the court requested additional documents including an explanation of the purpose and justifications for conducting an autopsy. On the morning of September 28, the Prosecutor General’s office submitted the supplemental documents and in the evening of the same day, the court authorized the police with a “search, seizure, and examination warrant for Baek’s autopsy.”

Even prior to the court’s issuing of the warrant, the family of Baek had come out against the NPA and prosecutors’ pursuit of an autopsy. The family members wrote a letter of petition to the judge asking that the court reject the application for an autopsy warrant. In the letter, the family stated, “We absolutely don’t want the hands of the police that took [our father’s] life to touch his body.”

The family’s position remains unchanged after the court’s decision to issue the warrant. Baek Nam-gi’s daughters, Doraji and Minjuhwa Baek, voiced the family’s disappointment at the court’s decision and stated, “The family absolutely does not want an autopsy.”

It is expected that supporters will continue to stay in the vicinity of the funeral hall in order to protect Baek’s body from being seized by the South Korean police. The autopsy warrant is valid until October 25. The police stated that it will make efforts to consider the position of the family members and come to an agreement with them before attempting to conduct the autopsy. However, Baek’s supporters are preparing for the worst case scenario – police use of force to seize the body against the family’s wishes.

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