Spotlight: Anti-THAAD "one-person" protests continue outside S.Korean presidential office, U.S. embassy

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-26 09:55:46|Editor: Zhou Xin
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By Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, May 26 (Xinhua) -- "One-person" protests have continued against the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) outside the South Korean presidential Blue House, urging the new government to step up efforts at the reversal of the installation decision.

Wearing a straw hat in early summer, Chang Jae-ho, an office worker living in Gimcheon city, North Gyeongsang province, stood outside the Blue House Thursday afternoon and held a placard reading "Opposition to THAAD."

The office worker took a day off to join the one-man protest rally that kicked off on Tuesday. Civic group activists and residents have taken turns in staging the one-person demonstrations in front of the Blue House and the U.S. embassy in Seoul.

"What we demand is clear: the removal of THAAD from Seongju. THAAD threatens, not benefits, the security and economy (of South Korea)," said Chang.

Under the ousted president Park Geun-hye administration, Seoul and Washington agreed in July last year to deploy one THAAD battery. The site was altered in September into a golf course at the Soseong-ri village in Seongju county.

As Gimcheon borders Seongju, residents both in the city and the county will be negatively affected by the super microwave-emitting radar. The battery is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, the AN/TPY-2 radar and the fire and control unit.

About two weeks before the May 9 presidential by-election, the radar and two mobile launchers were transported in the midnight to the golf course together with other heavy equipments.

The clandestine transportation raised speculation that it was aimed to politicize security issues during the election campaign period, which tended to benefit conservative candidates in the past elections.

Residents and peace activists, who had stood sentry beside the sole entrance road to the golf course in a bid to block any attempt to deliver the U.S. missile shield, violently tussled with police officers.

Some were taken to a hospital for injuries, with some conducted away by police. Soseong-ri is a tiny and peaceful village, the majority of villagers of which are farmers in their 70s or higher.

Since President Moon Jae-in took office on May 10, no further delivery of THAAD elements has been made, but residents still felt uneasy about the U.S. missile interception system, part of which was already installed.

"We know that it would take a couple of months to reverse the deployment decision. President Moon must name new defense and foreign ministers and hold a summit meeting with the U.S. president," said Chang.

Chang, however, said he was not able to "sit idle without doing anything." The one-person demonstrations would be held in relays outside the Blue House, until the South Korea-U.S. summit meeting is held in Washington in late June, he added.

The one-person demonstration was also launched earlier this week in Gwanghwamun square over the road beside the U.S. embassy in Seoul. The first "relay" protester was an independent lawmaker who has his local constituency in Ulsan, the country's southeastern port city.

The "relay" protest rally was scheduled to last till June 24, a date around the upcoming summit meeting between South Korea and the U.S.

Right after his inauguration, Moon sent special envoys to China and the United States to explain his policy stance on THAAD and other Korean Peninsula issues, but the Blue House took a cautious approach to the THAAD issue due to its sensitiveness.

Instead, Moon's ruling Democratic Party formed a special committee to figure out any illegitimacy and illegality in the decision-making process surrounding the U.S. missile defense system installation.

One of the Democratic Party lawmakers, affiliated with the committee, visited the one-person demonstration site Wednesday to listen to what the protesters demand.

"At an early stage, Gimcheon citizens viewed THAAD as a radar issue that affects people's health and environment," said Chang.

Such a misconception, he said, had changed into the right one, under which the U.S. missile shield would not be in the national interests.

Public opinion towards THAAD has changed since Moon was elected as president. According to a poll commissioned by local liberal newspaper Hankyoreh, 56.1 percent of respondents said the THAAD installation decision should be reviewed.

The survey of 1,000 voters was conducted from May 12 to May 13 and released on May 16. It has 3.1 percentage points in margin of error with a 95 percent confidence level.

The 56.1 percent figure almost doubled 28.9 percent of respondents in favor of the review that came from a poll conducted from May 1 to May 2.

Despite the dramatic twist in public opinion, President Moon remained cautious as 40 percent of respondents still claimed the acceptance of the THAAD deployment decision.

People in Seongju and Gimcheon have continued their candlelit rallies every night to protest against THAAD since the deployment decision was made last July.

"Because THAAD is a U.S. weapon, the owner must take it away," said Chang.