South Korea will review possible new locations for deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, its Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Monday.
The decision follows extended deadlock between the national government and local citizens, who through rallies and protests have expressed concern that the THAAD technology may pose health risks or damage local fruit crops.
“The South Korean government will closely cooperate with the local government and review six proposed locations at the earliest convenience,” a public relations official from the MND told NK News on Monday afternoon.
The statement came a few hours after the governor of Seongju County called for locals to “come up with an alternative option” in order to get past the current deadlock state in negotiating with the government.
“Opposition without proposing any alternative can’t fundamentally resolve the problem,” Seongju governor Kim Hang-kon said on Monday, according to the Chosun Ilbo. “The recent poll result shows that the majority of the county is hoping for the deployment to take place in a ‘third site’.”
Since July 13, the day when the Seongsan ADA battery in Seongju County was designated as the deployment site for a system designed to counter potential North Korean missile attacks, the government has been attempting to rebut local concerns about the technology.
But villagers have remained concerned over possible adverse health consequences for those near the THAAD radar, with more than 15,000 people and three schools stationed within 1.5 km of the site.
Seongju’s altered stance on the deployment – considering other locations within the county – is now a significant turnaround from accepting only a complete withdrawal of the system.
“Though I am glad that there is some breakthrough, I wish this type of maturity had appeared much sooner,” said John Lee, an NK News opinion writer about the latest development.
Lee added that the situation to date had not reflected well on South Korea.
“So far, the Prime Minister was assaulted during his visit to Seongju, the President had been called an outsider by an entertainer, (and) six lawmakers visited China to discuss the deployment – only to succeed in making fools of themselves.”
POSSIBLE NEW LOCATION
A recent poll result from the Maeil Sinmun, the most read daily newspaper of Gyeongsang province, showed that 57.9 percent of respondents answered positively on the deployment at a “third proposed site” still within Seongju county.
As for the proposed location, the overwhelming percentage of respondents (63.1) suggested Skyhill Seongju Country Club, a golf course owned by Lotte Co., Ltd, as the location for a new deployment site.
During Monday’s official statements, neither the MND or Seongju County specifically mentioned the golf course as a candidate location.
However, more than 650 Korean language articles published within a week all suggested the course, located 18 km to the north of the current site, as the most likely candidate, quoting anonymous sources inside the government.
A South Korean military expert said on Monday the location is an ideal alternative to its previous site.
“It might take a little bit more time to complete the deployment than at the previous site as the new one is not built for military deployment, but it shouldn’t take too much,” Kim Min-seok, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum told NK News.
“The site already has roads and other infrastructure already built-in, while other proposed sites would have to start from digging the ground which would take too much time until it gets completed,” Kim said.
During the phone call, Choi Won-young, a sales team manager of Skyhill Seongju Country Club told NK News that he was yet to be told of Lotte’s official response to the news. A public relations team at Lotte’s headquarter did not answer to a phone inquiry.
South Korea’s decision to deploy the U.S. made THAAD anti-missile defense system has also stimulated widespread criticism from China and North Korea.
Featured Image: US Army Official Flickr
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 672 words of this article.