Women’s groups in Seongju, Gimcheon, the Won Buddhist community and other regions across South Korea are calling for a boycott against the Lotte corporation for its cooperation with the Defense Ministry in the deployment of the U.S.’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

On January 2, the women’s groups held a press conference in front of a Lotte department store in Seoul and demanded the company reject the government’s offer to exchange a military-owned plot of land with the Lotte Skyhill Golf Course in Seongju, where the USFK wants to deploy the THAAD system. They also vowed to protest in front of Lotte stores across the country and boycott its products and services until Lotte agrees to reject the Defense Ministry’s deal.

China is also putting pressure on South Korea to block the deployment of the THAAD missile system by making it harder for South Korean companies, such as Lotte and Samsung, to do business in China. If Lotte agrees to provide the land sought by the Pentagon for the THAAD deployment, the company may suffer a huge loss in its investments in the Chinese market. Last November, after the potential land swap between Lotte and the South Korean Defense Ministry was announced, the Chinese government ordered unexpected tax audits and safety inspections on Lotte’s operations in Beijing.

Lotte is expected to finalize the deal that will hand over ownership of its golf course in Seongju to the Defense Ministry before the end of this month. The South Korean government will then hand over the land to the USFK, which will prepare it for the deployment of the THAAD missile system. The radar system attached to the THAAD battery, if deployed in South Korea, is capable of detecting missile activity in China. Ever since July of 2016, when the U.S. and South Korea announced their decision to deploy the missile system in Seongju, China has repeatedly expressed its opposition.

Meanwhile, civil society groups, Won Buddhists, Seongju and Gimcheon residents continue to show their resolve to stop the THAAD deployment through daily candlelight protests and other actions.

Seongju and Gimcheon residents, as well as members of the Won Buddhist religious community are planning to take legal action in February against the South Korean Defense Ministry. The Seongju and Gimcheon Task Forces to Oppose THAAD Deployment along with the Won Buddhist Emergency Task Force to Protect Sacred Land came together to hold a town hall meeting on December 29, 2016 to discuss legal grounds for a lawsuit and a petition against the Defense Ministry in the constitutional court. The residents allege that the Defense Ministry is violating numerous constitutional rights, including their right to live in a healthy environment as the THAAD radar is known to emit electromagnetic radiation harmful to the environment as well as the health of people nearby.

The clergy and members of the Won Buddhist community charge the THAAD deployment violates their constitutional right to religious freedom as the proposed site of the deployment is in close proximity to Won Buddhism’s sacred site, the birthplace of the faith’s second highest leader. If deployed, the THAAD system would cause a disturbance to those who practice their faith on land they consider sacred. The Won Buddhists have also warned that such a weapon system would escalate military conflict in the region and threaten war in a place of peace.

The residents also denounce the undemocratic process by which the Defense Ministry is pushing forward the THAAD deployment. For one, they say, the Defense Ministry never sought approval from the National Assembly on any decision regarding the THAAD system. 

The Defense Ministry, however, insists that South Korean laws that normally apply to the procurement of military facilities do not apply in this situation as the U.S., not South Korea, is the party paying for and installing the THAAD battery.

 

by ZoominKorea staff

 

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