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Police and locals clash over delivery to Thaad site

Nov 22,2017
A clash between police and locals took place Tuesday as the Ministry of National Defense tried to deliver construction equipment to the location of the U.S.-led antimissile battery unit in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, resulting in some injuries.

Over 100 residents and members of civic groups that have protested the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense(Thaad) system in their neighborhood gathered near the Soseong-ri town hall to block the road to the golf course that morning.

The Defense Ministry was attempting to send construction vehicles and equipment to the location of Thaad battery, a former golf course in Seongju County, a rural farm village.

Police in turn sent 5,000 officers in 60 vehicles in order to secure the roads for the delivery around 9:15 a.m.

Some locals blockaded the path with their personal vehicles and some formed a human chain, while still other protesters carried out religious activities.

Amid police efforts to forcefully disperse the locals and activists, a scuffle resulted and some 20 people were reported as being injured.

In the afternoon, police installed a makeshift fence in front of the town hall to keep locals and activists from entering the road.

Some 50 trucks and trailers carrying construction equipment were able to enter the Thaad base later that afternoon.

The Defense Ministry delivered construction equipment in order to replace the air conditioning and heating system, reinforce drains ahead of the winter season at the unit and install new heating for military personnel living quarters, along with other necessary repairs to the facility.

Seoul and Washington jointly announced the deployment of the Thaad in July 2016 in response to North Korea’s continued provocations.

Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club was named by the Defense Ministry in September last year as the location for the Thaad system, and one year later, the deployment of the Thaad battery to the location was finally completed.

Local activists have protested the designation of the golf course as the location of the Thaad deployment, with farmers especially concerned over risks to health and agricultural produce by the electromagnetic waves produced by the X-band radar.

They have also been calling for a full-scale environmental appraisal rather than the small-scale study.

Locals were especially aggravated by the stealthy manner in which the key components of the Thaad battery were installed on April 26, under the previous administration, resulting in a clash between police and protesters.

Another clash occurred on Sept. 7, when the military installed the four additional launchers.

A group of six civic groups opposed to the deployment got wind of the Defense Ministry’s plan to deliver the construction equipment on Monday, after it released a statement that afternoon opposing the delivery.

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