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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
A county governor wrote a blood letter to protest Seoul’s decision to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in his region, in front of a 5,000 strong protest in Seongju on Wednesday.
“No to the deployment of THAAD in Seongju,” governor Kim Hang-kon wrote with his own blood in front an estimated 5,000 local citizens, as seen in pictures taken at the protest and distributed by local media.
Deployment of THAAD has proven deeply controversial in South Korea, stimulating criticism from Seongju citizens who argue its operation will have negative health consequences for those in the vicinity, due to its electromagnetic frequency output.
Taking their protest further, approximately two hundred people later separated from the main group to ride buses to Seoul, where by late afternoon local media said they were protesting outside a Convention Center owned by the South Korean ministry of defense.
But the earlier protests in Seongju did not just target the South Korean government.
Locals there also burnt a replica of North Korea’s Hwasong-10 missile (referred to in the West as the Musudan), which some cited as one of the main causes behind Seoul’s decision in the first place, Newsis Agency reported.
RESPONSE TO THREAT
From the government side, Wednesday’s deployment announcement made clear the link between North Korea’s recent actions and Seoul’s thinking.
“To defend South Korea and the people against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats … the government decided to deploy the THAAD system at Seongju” an official from the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said during a Wednesday briefing.
It didn’t, however, come as a surprise for those in Seongju, who for two days had been sharing rumors sourced to anonymous officials about the county becoming the final location for suggested deployment.
And those rumors quickly spurred uproar from locals – including the governor who went on hunger strike Tuesday to prevent deployment – over worries that electromagnetic waves emitted from THAAD’s radar would raise health concerns for the villagers and possibly impact the quality of the county’ biggest export, Chamoi, the Korean melon.
“Seongju County is the biggest producer of Chamoi, supplying around 70 percent of Chamoi in South Korea, with about 60 percent of the villagers working for the farming of Chamoi,” read an official protest letter from the governor.
“It is clear that the deployment of THAAD will lead to catastrophic incidents, including the destruction of Chamoi farming infrastructure, which will greatly endanger the survival of the county.”
Seoul officials planned to calm down angry villagers by dispatching top defense officials headed by MND vice-minister Hwang In-moo to the county on Wednesday, to hold meetings to explain and emphasize that the deployment of THAAD would not impact villagers’ health or the environment.
But that plan was cancelled at the last minute, when around 200 villagers – including the governor himself – hopped on five buses to head straight to Seoul to protest in front of MND buildings.
“Come out Han Min-goo,” called protestors after the Defense Minister’s name after arriving at the MND Convention Center in Seoul, local outlet Focus News reported.
For its part, North Korea on Monday warned it might take “physical measures” against the final THAAD site, to “completely suppress the system…(via a) sea of fire”.
Featured image: MTN, NewsCJ, NoCut News : NK News edit