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Korean president suggests moving THAAD location within Seongju

[THE INVESTOR] President Park Geun-hye said Thursday that the government may consider deploying an advanced U.S. antimissile shield to a new location within Seongju, in a move seen to embrace the protesting local residents.

She also reiterated the necessity and safety of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, urging the ruling camp and the corresponding region to cooperate with the government’s plan.

President Park Geun-hye.
President Park Geun-hye.


The president’s remarks came during a two-hour meeting with 11 lawmakers of the Saenuri Party based in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province. Cheong Wa Dae’s chief of staff Lee Won-jong also attended, accompanied by senior presidential secretaries An Chong-bum and Kim Jae-won.

“Considering the concerns from Seongju residents, (the government) will thoroughly review (the possibility of installing THAAD to) a new location within Seongju, should the military make relevant recommendations,” Park was quoted as saying by some of the participants.

It was Seongju representative Rep. Yi Wan-young who had first suggested the compromising alternative, reflecting the worries that from the original location, THAAD’s radar waves would be passing directly across the residential areas.

The Daegu-North Gyeongsang cluster, collectively referred to as the TK belt, has long been considered a political stronghold for the conservative party and especially for President Park who was born in Daegu.

But since Seoul and Washington last month selected a South Korean artillery unit in Seongju as the THAAD location, local residents have largely been growing apart from the government.

Their claim is that THAAD’s far-reaching radar system is likely to cause damage on people’s health and agricultural crops, and that the existence of such powerful military device could also make Seongju a military target in cases of conflicts.

Another point of concern has been the economic retaliation from China and Russia, both of which see THAAD as part of the U.S. missile program as well as a threat upon their national security.

“The electromagnetic waves are not to worry about, as a safety test carried out in Guam proved that (THAAD) is innocuous,” Park told the lawmakers, persuading them of the necessity and safety of the U.S.-initiated defense battery.

While the Blue House strove to push ahead with the THAAD plan, some opposition members said that they will visit China next week to meet with ranking diplomatic officials.

Rep. Kim Young-ho of The Minjoo Party of Korea and five other first-termers will leave next Monday for Beijing to gather opinion on THAAD deployment and its consequent impact on Korea-China ties, officials said Thursday.

A group of Saenuri members, including Gyeonggi governor Nam Kyung-pil had made a similar visit last month, shortly after the deployment announcement, but China‘s key officials did not attend the corresponding conference.

In a stepped-up protest against Seoul’s THAAD decision, a state-run newspaper in China in its editorial on Wednesday pinpointed President Park to be blamed for installing the defense system in the Korean Peninsula.

Chong Wa Dae, though it refrained from commenting, alluded to some level of disapproval.

“It is not appropriate (for the presidential house) to answer every question related to diplomatic issues,” said spokesperson Jung Youn-kuk.

“The Foreign Ministry will take charge, if necessary.”


By Bae Hyun-jung/ The Korea Herald (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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