] Political events often have significant impact on the economy, and South Korea’s recent decision to deploy the advanced anti-missile system Terminal High Altitude Area Defense is having some major economic repercussions.
The biggest of them comes from China, South Korea’s largest trade partner. THAAD does not threaten China in a military sense, but Beijing is concerned about the increased leverage that the US would wield in the region.
Beijing has been expressing its disapproval in various ways, although President Xi Jin-ping has said there would be no “retribution.”
Major concerts and cultural events by South Korean performers have been canceled, and Chinese tourists are doing the same regarding preplanned trips to Korea.
The Chinese media has been equally hostile. The party-run People’s Daily has been criticizing the THAAD decision. In an editorial published on Aug. 5, it lambasted the South Korean government for acting so lightly on such a critical security matter as the THAAD deployment.
Industries closely entwined with Chinese customers, such as cosmetics and medical tourism, are being hard-hit, leading to declines in stock prices and overall sales.
Meanwhile, back at home, THAAD deployment is facing mounting protests from the opposition political party and critics who believe it would be detrimental on many accounts.
These critics include the people of Seongju, the area that was chosen as the site for THAAD, who are adamantly against the deployment, citing environmental reasons. Others say, politically it would serve no other purpose than to aggravate North Korea and neighbors like China.
Supporters, however, point to the lack of South Korea’s defense mechanisms against Pyongyang, which has been releasing a steady stream of provocations, both physical and verbal, against Seoul.
They also stress that Beijing is using the opportunity to flex its muscles, despite the fact that THAAD would actually have no physical bearing on it.
“THAAD is not a threat to China. Unless it has some other reasons of its own national interests, such as its concerns regarding relations with North Korea and Washington’s increased influence, on its mind, there is no real and tangible reason for Beijing to oppose it,” said Kim Tae-woo, professor of Konyang University and former president of the Korea Institute for National Unification.
Faced with the snowballing criticism, however, President Park Geun-hye on Aug. 4 said she is open to suggestions for other locations within Seongju to deploy THAAD.
By Kim Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org