The new deployment site for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system has been finalized as the Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club; a golf course owned by one South Korea’s major conglomerates (chaebols) in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, it was announced on Friday.
The new location is still strategically suitable to defend most of the South against the North’s missile threats, though the decision may cause fresh rounds of protests from other concerned parties.
“The South Korean Defense Ministry has explained to the local government and the National Assembly that the Seongju golf club …is the most suitable candidate,” an unnamed defense official said, numerous South Korean media outlets reported.
A representative from the Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club declined to comment on Lotte’s position on the deployment.
The golf course is the second location announced to house the THAAD missile defense system. A previous proposal in Seongju County was derailed earlier in July, among vocal protests from local villagers over potential health concerns.
While the government attempted to assuage concerns, the protesters were not convinced and argued the 15,000 people and three schools located within 1.5 km of the site were at risk.
In response to the protests, the South Korean government and the county reached an agreement in late August to review six alternative locations, including the golf club.
A military expert told NK News in a previous interview the golf course’s built-in infrastructure makes it the most likely candidates among the newer proposals.
“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,” a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum told NK News.
Like the previously proposed deployment site, a THAAD battery located at the golf course would protect most U.S. military assets located in the South, though would not cover Seoul.
“The fact that it doesn’t seem to include Seoul might seem surprising, this is just a reminder of the fact that it is not placed here as a fail safe protector of South Korean airspace,” Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer, authors of a pending book on North Korean military history told NK News.
“Note that due to the nature of the system, which shoots down missiles in their terminal phase, a forward deployment is not necessary. At ranges closer to the DMZ, it would become targetable by systems such as the North’s GNSS-guided 300mm system which has a range of at least 200 kilometers.”
However, an active South Korean political pundit argued that this decision might spark other protests from adjacent cities and even a religious group.
“The golf course is relatively near the old section of Gimcheon City, and Gyeongbuk Innocity,” Lim Hyung-chan, former advisor to the lawmaker told NK News. “Also, the decision may spark conflicts with Won-Buddism, which has a sacred site near the location.”
During the phone call, the public relations official from Won-Buddism said they stand against the system’s deployment as it is too close to their sacred site, Jang In-gook told NK News.
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