By Yoo Seungki
SEOUL, July 14 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's decision to comply with the U.S. Pivot-to-Asia strategy by deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system may help the government draw public attention on security threats, experts here said.
"The Park Geun-hye government may have approached the THAAD issue in consideration of the lame duck period," said Kim Yong Hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.
Kim said at a forum hosted on Wednesday by the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) that President Park Geun-hye may have thought of the THAAD deployment as an issue capable of drawing public attention on security threats.
When tensions get high on the Korean peninsula, South Korean people tended to vote for conservative candidates. The THAAD deployment caused groundless fears here among the general public that South Korea's territory cannot be protected without the U.S. missile defense system.
Seoul and Washington announced their decision last Friday to deploy one THAAD battery to U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) by the end of next year. Just five days later, the Seongju county, some 300 km southeast of the capital Seoul, was designated as the deployment site.
The ruling Saenuri Party was shockingly defeated by the main opposition Minju Party at the April 13 general elections as public dissatisfactions mounted with a soaring unemployment among college graduates and a widening income inequality between the rich and the poor and between the regular and irregular workers.
The governing party regained its parliamentary majority with those who had defected from the party during the election period returning, but concerns remained ahead of next year's presidential election as President Park's approval rating hovered low following the parliamentary election defeat.
According to a local pollster Realmeter, Park's support rate continued to fall to 33.1 percent in the first week of this month after emotional disputes among people in the country's southeastern region, a traditional home turf for Park and the Saenuri Party, to build a new international airport in their hometown.
To recover the lost support from conservative voters, Park may have sought to attract public attention into security issues by hurriedly announcing the THAAD deployment decision. Park is forecast to make an active use of the THAAD deployment as an engine to bring together her conservative supporters, said Kim at Dongguk University.
However, it will not be easy for Park to gain more approval for her management of state affairs as the site for the U.S. missile defense system was fixed in North Gyeongsang province, Park's political hometown.
It enraged people living in the region, with some writing in blood to express strong oppositions to the deployment of the THAAD, whose X-band radar is known to emit super-strong microwave detrimental to human body.
The Realmeter's February survey showed that public opinion over the THAAD deployment was divided neck and neck, with 49.4 percent in favor and 42.3 percent against it. But, it would change if the deployment worsens China-South Korea relations, especially economic ties.
On July 8 when Seoul and Washington announced the THAAD deployment decision, stocks in South Korean companies which heavily depend on Chinese consumers and tourists lost a deep ground. On the day alone, over 3 trillion won (2.6 billion U.S. dollars) of market value was wiped out from stocks in cosmetics, tour agencies and so on.
Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior researcher at the private Sejong Institute, said last week that the THAAD decision would cause a drop in Chinese tourists visiting South Korea, a cooling in the popularity of the so-called Korean Wave and the possible boycotting of South Korean products in China.
Lotte Duty Free, South Korea's largest duty-free operator, generated 70 percent of its revenue from Chinese tourists in the first half of this year, according to Yonhap news agency report. The percentage kept rising from 59 percent in 2014 to 62 percent in 2015.
Moon Jae-in, former Minjoo Party leader and presidential candidate during the 2012 election, said in his Facebook account Wednesday that the THAAD deployment was a decision causing more losses than gains from the perspective of national interests, calling for the issue to be re-examined and made open to the public debate.
He said the mismanaged THAAD issue by the government created crisis, rather than managing it, and the administration's adherence to the THAAD endangered international coordination in resolving the peninsula's nuclear issue.
BEIJING, July 13 (Xinhua) -- China on Wednesday urged the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) to halt the the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in the ROK.
Earlier in the day, the ROK's defense ministry announced an agreement with the United States to deploy the U.S. missile defense system, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to its southeastern region despite continued opposition from neighboring countries. Full story
SEOUL, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Experts here voiced serious concern about South Korea entering a U.S. missile defense network by deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to its soil, boosting expectations for escalating regional tensions and arms race amid strong oppositions from neighboring countries.
South Korea's defense ministry on Wednesday announced its agreement with the United States to deploy one THAAD battery to the Seongju county, some 300 km southeast of Seoul, by the end of next year. Full story