Demonstrators attend a protest against the deployment of THAAD in Seoul, South Korea, July 31, 2017. Residents and peace activists in South Korea, who have opposed the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, gathered Monday outside the presidential Blue House and the defense ministry's headquarters, shouting a renewed opposition to further deployment. (Xinhua/Lee Sang-ho)
SEOUL, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Residents and peace activists in South Korea, who have opposed the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, gathered Monday outside the presidential Blue House and the defense ministry's headquarters, shouting a renewed opposition to further deployment.
It rained heavily earlier in the morning, but over 100 participants, ranging from elementary-school children holding hands with their mothers to university students and gray-haired grannies who have difficulty moving around, kept their places outside the Blue House.
Some wore raincoats, and others held umbrellas. Several others got rained on directly, just lifting placards to oppose the decision to install four more THAAD launchers in a former golf course in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province.
President Moon Jae-in ordered the start of consultations with the United States on the deployment of the remaining THAAD launchers, after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) late Friday night.
The protesters tried to go inside a fountain near the main gate of the Blue House, but it was blocked by riot police, causing a tussle between them. President Moon opened the road along his office, including the fountain, to people, but any protest rally has been banned. The protesters demanded a press conference be allowed there.
One of the grannies shed bitter tears, expressing her deep sense of disappointment at the new government, which was inaugurated on May 10 through the country's first-ever presidential by-election, caused by nationwide candlelit rallies that led to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal.
"The currently deployed THAAD is illegal. The further deployment will never be accepted. We will stop THAAD on the road by mobilizing all available tools," said Lee Seok-ju, chief of the Soseong-ri village in Seongju county where the THAAD site is located.
The anti-THAAD protesters moved to the defense ministry's headquarters in central Seoul in the afternoon, in a bid to hold a press conference. According to the statement, they demanded a reversal of the further installation decision and an eventual withdrawal of the U.S. missile shield from their home country.
On April 26, about two weeks before the presidential by-election, two mobile launchers and other THAAD elements were transported in the middle of night to the small, peaceful village. During the midnight transportation, a violent tussle occurred between protesters and policemen, taking many civilians to a nearby hospital for injuries.
The residents and peace activists have continued anti-THAAD demonstrations every night in their hometown since the THAAD deployment decision was announced in July last year. Four more THAAD launchers were alleged to have been delivered to a U.S. military base near Seongju.
"When the two launchers were transported (to the Soseong-ri village), people were violently suppressed. How could the new government transport four more launchers?" a peace activist said during the press conference outside the defense ministry.
The activist said they would block the additional THAAD installation with their own bodies, vowing to fight against the U.S. anti-missile system to the end.
"The most serious wrongdoing in security and diplomatic affairs, which the Park Geun-hye government committed, was the THAAD deployment. How could President Moon, who was elected through the candlelit revolution, push for the THAAD deployment?" said another female peace activist.
She said the THAAD was incapable of defending South Korea from the DPRK's missile threats as the two sides are located too close and the U.S. missile shield targets missiles flying at a high altitude.
The DPRK's ICBM is not a direct threat to the South Korean territory as an ICBM has a range of at least 5,500 km.
Most of DPRK missiles targeting South Korea fly at an altitude of less than 40 km. THAAD is designed to intercept incoming missiles at an altitude of 40-150 km.
The THAAD in Seongju, about 300 km southeast of the capital Seoul, cannot protect the country's most-populated Seoul and its suburban metropolitan area that has about half of the 50 million population.
A female university student, who joined the anti-THAAD press conference, said the THAAD deployment would only boost the war crisis and arms race on the Korean Peninsula as it irritates neighboring countries.
The student, who appeared to repress her tears, said with a quivering voice that the Moon government, created by the candlelit revolution, must stop deceiving people and stop any action boosting the war crisis.
Neighboring countries, including China and Russia, have strongly opposed the THAAD in South Korea as it breaks strategic balance in the region and damages the security interests of the regional countries. The THAAD's X-band radar can peer deep into the territories of the two nations.
One of the grannies from the Soseon-ri village poured out her anger and frustration at President Moon, saying the new leader changed his anti-THAAD position after being elected.
According to local cable news channel JTBC, Moon said in January that the THAAD's operational effectiveness had not been validated yet in the South Korean territory and that the DPRK had no reason to fire an ICBM, instead of short and medium-range missiles, against South Korea.
Before being elected as president, Moon visited Seongju and took photos with residents, holding together a placard that reads "Immediately withdraw THAAD, a deep-rooted evil of Park Geun-hye." The photo was unveiled by anti-THAAD residents.
"I cannot get to sleep (since the THAAD deployment decision was announced). We are also people of the Republic of Korea (ROK). (The further deployment decision) is an act of betraying people," said a resident of Gimcheon city which borders the Seongju county and directly faces the super microwave-emitting radar.
During the press conference, the protesters shouted famous slogans "THAAD Out, Peace In" and "THAAD cannot defend against North Korean (DPRK) missiles" every time the comments of each participant ended.