THAAD rage: Koreans egg PM for defending US antimissile deployment (VIDEO)
Seoul announced on Wednesday that it had chosen Seongju, a farming area in southeastern North Gyeongsang Province, to host the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), an anti-missile system that the US is to provide. The decision came as a surprise for local residents and sparked angry protests.
Protesters pelted the senior government official with eggs and plastic water bottles as he addressed them from the stairs of the county office on Friday, footage of the incident shows. Security guards unfolded ballistic boards and umbrellas to protect their boss and took him inside.
When he later tried to leave the compound a crowd of several hundred people blocked his mini-bus with a tractor and wouldn’t let him go for several hours, even as Hwang switched the vehicle, Yonhap news agency reported.
Unlike his suit, Hwang, who holds a largely ceremonial position in the South Korean government, was unharmed in the altercation. But a senior police officer received a forehead injury.
Seongju residents are concerned that THAAD may pose a health hazard due to a powerful radar system it uses to track targets. They don’t believe the government, which said the radar is safe from people as long as they keep at least 100 meters from it.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo, who visited Seongju along with PM Hwang, earlier said he would personally stand in front of the radars to prove they aren't harmful.
A series of protests were held by the people in the past few days, including one staged in front of the Defense Ministry building in the capital. Thirteen local leaders went on a hunger strike to oppose the deployment.
Washington and Seoul say THAAD deployment is necessary to protect South Korea from a growing missile threat from Pyongyang. The North warned that it would use “physical measures” against the system, once it is deployed.
The deployment was criticized by China, which says THAAD radar would be used to survey its airspace, and by Russia, which criticized the move because it upsets the balance of power in the region.