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Locals from Seongju travel to Seoul and protest Thaad

May 09,2017
이미지뷰
Residents from Seongju County and Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang, stage a rally in front of the U.S. Embassy in central Seoul on Monday to protest the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery in Seongju. [YONHAP]
Locals where the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery is being deployed embarked to Seoul Monday to demand a halt in the delivery and operation of the U.S.-led antimissile system in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, and submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court.

The residents of Seongju and neighboring Gimcheon, along with civic and religious activists, departed to Seoul at 6 a.m., a day before the presidential election, to stage a protest in front of the Seoul Administrative Court in southern Seoul and the U.S. Embassy in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.

A committee of Seongju residents calling for the withdrawal of the Thaad battery on Monday said they submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court that day calling for the halt of the delivery of the components to the site as well as to stop its operation.

It added that over 500 residents of the area had signed the petition.

The group continued, “In the case that the Thaad equipment continue to be delivered and progresses to actual operation, this will violate the fundamental rights of the residents.”

The residents have protested that the deployment of the Thaad battery to a golf course in Seongju County, previously owned by Lotte, infringes upon their constitutional rights to enjoy peace, health, a pleasant environment and freedom of occupation.

Some three dozen protesters then headed to Gwanghwamun and read out a letter addressed to U.S. President Donald Trump in front of the U.S. Embassy in central Seoul to protest the manner in which the Thaad system was deployed to the region.

These protesters included elderly farmers as well as Won Buddhists, who have been on a hunger strike for the past 12 days, since the U.S. Forces Korea transferred components of the Thaad battery to the golf course in Seongju in the middle of the night despite backlash from locals.

Some protesters held up signs that “People live in Soseong-ri,” in the rural Seongju County, while others held up placards stating: “Melons are peace.”

Farmers in straw hats carried baskets of ripe yellow melon, the produce for which the rural town is best known.

Protestors previously filed a suit against the South Korean minister of foreign affairs over the land transfer for the battery to the U.S. Forces Korea, and demanded the land transfer be halted until a decision is reached.

The attorneys representing the residents also added that the Defense Ministry has, since the decision to locate the Thaad battery in Seongju, handled the matter in a “rough-and-ready manner,” including neglecting completion of proper environmental inspections, and “did not abide by domestic legal process at all in enforcing the deployment of the Thaad battery.”

Seongju residents have been especially concerned over risks to health and agricultural produce by the electromagnetic radiation produced by the powerful X-band radar and retaliation by North Korea.

Residents and activists also held a press conference back in Soseong-ri the same day to call for a review of the delivery of the Thaad system and for the National Assembly to examine the process in which the battery was deployed.

They also expressed ire at the U.S. government for forcing the Thaad system upon Korea, which has drawn strong economic retaliation from China atop domestic backlash, then demanding Seoul to pay for it.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month said he wants South Korea to pay the $1 billion cost of the deployment of the Thaad system going against previous agreement.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]