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Activist group opposing Thaad halts activities

Remaining, hard-line members promise to continue their efforts
Aug 16,2017
A committee of Seongju County residents that has protested the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) battery, one of six groups that were vocal against the antimissile system, was confirmed Monday to have halted its activities.

All 18 members of the Seongju Committee Fighting for Withdrawal of the Thaad Deployment, including its chair, Kim Chung-hwan, quit the group, which has been forefront in the protest against the deployment of the U.S.-led antimissile system in their rural county located in North Gyeongsang.

The six organizations, which also include a committee of nearby Gimcheon residents and a group of Won Buddhists, have been active as one negotiating bloc protesting the deployment of the Thaad system.

The Seongju Committee dropped out of the bloc after clashing with other groups on various issues, including arbitrary inspections of vehicles heading in and out of the former Lotte golf course, which had been turned over to the U.S. Forces Korea.

Kim, chair of the Seongju Committee, criticized the struggle for leadership of the activist groups over social media Monday. “Everybody wants authority and nobody takes responsibility,” Kim wrote. “The grandmothers of Chojeon-myeon and Soseong-ri [villages in Seongju] have merely become sidekicks.”

Kim and other members of the Seongju Committee were the first to protest Thaad after the Defense Ministry named the Seongju golf course as the deployment site in September.

Some Seongju residents who did not agree with the committee’s decision to step away stated they will form their own splinter group.

With the Seongju Committee effectively dissolved, the remaining five groups declared Tuesday that they will continue to voice their opposition to Thaad and call for its withdrawal.

They also plan to boycott a public hearing with Seongju County residents to be hosted by the Ministry of National Defense on Thursday.

After conducting an environmental test on the Thaad system in Seongju, the Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Environment on Saturday concluded that the electromagnetic waves emitted by the Thaad system are safe.

But activists have expressed suspicion that the findings are a means for the government to complete the deployment of the Thaad system’s remaining four launchers, out of a total of six.

The activist groups said through a statement said that the ministry’s hearing with residents scheduled for Thursday is “a means to justify a small-scale environmental study.”

They had been calling for a full-scale environmental appraisal. After measuring the electromagnetic wave emissions, the ministry had said that this public hearing on Thursday would be used to ultimately decide on the deployment.

“It is a complicated situation, but there is no change in our request for Thaad to be withdrawn from the base in Seongju and then [for the government] to follow through with all procedures,” said Kang Hyun-wook, spokesman of the association of residents of Soseong-ri, on Tuesday. “The Defense Ministry will have to follow with procedures of measuring the electromagnetic wave emissions and a public hearing after the withdrawal of the illegal Thaad.”

But Kang was guarded when speaking of the Seongju Committee, saying, “The issue of dissolving it is still in internal discussions,” adding that there is a splinter group that is currently active in its place.

The five original groups opposing the Thaad deployment, along with the splinter group of Seongju residents, will likewise proceed with activities such as a rally Wednesday in front of Chojeon-myeon and Soseong-ri town halls, as well as its 4th Soseong-ri peace rally, scheduled for Saturday.

BY KIM JUNG-SEOK, BAEK KYUNG-SEO AND SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]