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Hope, concern co-exist among S.Korean residents opposing THAAD deployment

Editor: zhangrui 丨Xinhua

03-31-2017 07:16 BJT

SEONGJU, SOUTH KOREA, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Hope and concern co-exited among South Korean residents living in a little, peaceful village where the U.S. missile shield, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), is set to be deployed as early as next month.

Five trucks loaded with unidentified equipments attempted Wednesday to pass through the entrance road to the golf course in the Soseong-ri village, in which Seoul and Washington agreed to install one THAAD battery.

The attempt was thwarted by villagers and civic group activists, the number of them reaching about 100, as they sat in the middle of the road to block what the defense ministry said were the trucks carrying machines necessary for an environmental evaluation.

The attempts were made twice early in the morning and at about noon Wednesday, but the trucks returned back in the end, leading the villagers, mostly those in their 70s and 80s, to feel jubilant over their first victory.

"Grandpas and grandmas living here felt happy after the trucks came back," one of advocacy group activists who joined the anti-THAAD protest, told Xinhua on Thursday at the village which has a population of about 160.

The activist said almost 400 police officers surrounded the villagers and anti-THAAD activists, threatening to make them dispersed forcibly for what the police claimed was the violation of law.

Despite the threats, there was no violence or clash between them reported on the day.

The village hall is always filled with people from Seongju county, which incorporates the village as its district, and Gimcheon city bordering the county as well as peace activists.

They have taken turns in keeping watch over whether any THAAD element would pass the road, beside the village hall, to the golf course which Lotte Group exchanged with the defense ministry for a military land near Seoul.

Following the land-swap deal between the ministry and the country's fifth-biggest family-controlled conglomerate, the THAAD deployment gained speed.

Two mobile launchers and the first elements of THAAD arrived here at night on March 6 and were transported to an unknown base of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

Local state-run broadcaster KBS reported the delivery of THAAD's X-band radar to South Korea on March 16, but the USFK declined to confirm it. One THAAD battery is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, X-band radar and the fire & control unit.

"How can we, as private citizens, block the government's decision to deploy THAAD?" asked one Gimcheon resident who lives a couple of kilometers away from the village hall. He comes to the hall three or four times a week for a daytime shift to keep watch over any attempt to enter the golf course.

The 72-year-old farmer, who declined to be identified, said his participation in the shift was all he can do though he still worried that his efforts may not reverse the THAAD deployment decision.

Many of the residents showed a deep distrust of local media outlets for what they claimed were distorted reports and a deliberate ignorance of the THAAD issue. When asking for comments, some of them yelled at reporters for such reasons.

One of volunteers from a religious group, who declined to be identified, said she recently realized a fact that she was duped by the government as well as local media outlets into having a false belief in the THAAD deployment.

Together with other volunteers, she was manually making ribbons mixed with yellow and blue colors at a tent put up beside the village hall. There were a couple of tents and containers set up for civic group activists and volunteers.

The blue and yellow ribbons symbolize the opposition to THAAD and the Sewol ferry disaster each. The maritime tragedy, which occurred on April 16, 2014, claimed over 300 lives.

The volunteer said the bereaved families of the Sewol tragedy may have felt duped by local media organizations and the government, adding they felt a much emotional solidarity with the families in that regard.


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