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Seongju gets Thaad compensation

$1.16 billion package includes infrastructure plans and melon deal
Apr 06,2017
The government has created a massive compensation package for the rural town of Seongju in North Gyeongsang for the upcoming deployment of a controversial U.S. antimissile defense unit.

The Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of National Defense and the Seongju County Office finalized the compensation package, the Seongju government said Wednesday, which is worth 1.3 trillion won ($1.16 billion).

An artillery base in Seongju was selected as the site for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, the Ministry of National Defense said in July 2016.

After fierce protests by local residents over health concerns related to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the system’s radar, the government selected the Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club in October 2016. The deployment is scheduled to be completed before the end of this year.

According to the compensation plan, nine major projects were promised, including an expressway construction, worth 800 million won, and a light railway transit, worth 500 million won, both between Daegu and Seongju.

The government promised 12 billion won to improve the traffic between Daegu and Seongju and 2.5 billion won to move the county’s overhead power lines underground.

A promise was also made that melons produced in Seongju, a key agricultural product of the town, will be supplied to the military.

The government promised Seongju will be selected for the third branch of Hanawon, a settlement support center for North Korean defectors.

The government also promised to increase the number of state-run daycare centers in the town and to support tourism development. Subsidies for the town’s micro-businesses were also promised.

Seongju expressed satisfaction with the package and agreed to send a document to the Defense Ministry designating the site as a military installation protection zone.

“We will form a taskforce to make sure that the project will be implemented as promised,” county officials said.

“And we also want the compensation package to mend the rupture in the region and heal the residents’ feelings hurt by the government’s inconsiderate way of pushing forward the deployment.”

But not everyone is satisfied, including Park Su-gyu, a senior official of the residents’ protest group. “The expressway construction between Daegu and Seongju was already planned before the deployment decision, but the government included it as if it were compensation,” he said. “The Defense Ministry and Seongju government are trying to deceive the people.”

Park also said the large-scale infrastructure projects were promised without proper feasibility surveys. He said the light railway system between Daegu and Seongju is an example, saying that Seongju, which only has 46,000 people, is not big enough to keep it going.

Similar railway projects in much bigger cities such as Uijeongbu and Busan are all struggling due to low demand.

“The government promised major projects one after another, but with no feasibility studies. They will all fail eventually,” he said.

An adjacent city of Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang, also expressed dissatisfaction. Gimcheon, about 8 kilometers (4.97 miles) from the Thaad deployment site, has a population of 140,000 people.

“Because residents still continue protests everyday even now, we cannot raise the issue of compensation,” a city official said.

BY KIM JUNG-SEOK, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]