Hundreds of South Koreans mark one year anniversary of fight against THAAD

Around 500 residents in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province of South Korea, celebrated the one-year anniversary of fighting against the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) on July 12, 2017. They lighted candles and raised banners to show their anger toward the deployment of THAAD system. Photo: Chunmei

Hundreds of residents in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province of South Korea gathered at an open space beside the county office on Wednesday to mark their one-year fight against the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
On July 8, 2016, Seoul and Washington announced to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea, and five days after, Seongju county was designated as the deployment site of THAAD. Since then, Seongju residents have never missed a day for an anti-THAAD rally, Bae Miyoung, a member of Seongju anti-THAAD committee told
“It’s been 365 days that Seongju residents have lighted candles since July 12, 2016 to show their opposition to the deployment of the THAAD system,” she said, adding that around 500 residents joined Wednesday’s rally, which was larger than usual as the next day marked the first anniversary of their county being announced by Seoul and Washington as the deployment site of THAAD in South Korea.
A series of classic and popular music performances were played at the place which is a parking space outside the county office, which brought together residents who live both in and outside Seongju county but support the anti-THAAD demonstration.
They put candles in a paper cup, raised anti-THAAD banners with their hands, and some tied the banners around their foreheads. Beyond that, the most important symbols of their anti-THAAD rallies were blue ribbon and blue bowknot which represent peace.
“There are a lot of ways of fighting, but the candle rally is a non-violent way of fighting against the deployment of THAAD,” said Park Chul-soo, who is chief of the moderator center of the anti-THAAD rally.
Seongju county which has a population of around 45,000, was once a Buddhist pilgrimage site for those seeking peace and enlightenment, but now it has become known to the world as a center of protest demanding the removal of the THAAD system.
While South Korean authorities have reiterated that the THAAD system is designed to protect South Korea from North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat, many Seongju people and those who live in other parts of the country but oppose THAAD believe that the effectiveness of THAAD in protecting SK from NK is far less, if any, than its strategic meaning to the US which wants to contain China.
“We neither believe the South Korean government nor the US,” the moderator said, “We have never had trustworthy data about the side effects of THAAD so far.”
But according to Bae, the number of residents in Seongju county fighting against THAAD has been decreasing ever since the government changed the deployment site from one nearby the central county to the remote golf course in Soseong-ri village, the northernmost part of the Seongju county. The golf course was once owned by Lotte Group, and acquired as the THAAD deployment site in February this year.
“Those who once fought against THAAD and lived near the central county have gradually dropped out from the anti-THAAD protests because they think THAAD is far away from them and they have to deal with other things in life, though they might harbor anti-THAAD sentiment in their heart,” said Bae who lives near the central city, but has kept fighting since the beginning. “What I want is not the removal of THAAD in Seongju county only, but in the whole South Korea,” she said.
On April 26, about two weeks before the presidential by-election, two THAAD mobile launchers and other elements were transported in the middle of night to the golf course, violently suppressing the anti-THAAD residents, some even in their 80s.
Many of them now have expectations from the current President Moon Jae-in who became president in May this year and who tends to have a moderate attitude toward North Korea compared with his predecessor.

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