President Park Geun-hye is trying to reach a compromise with angry residents in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, over the U.S.’s plan to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery in the county by next year.
Park has said the administration is willing to change the site where the THAAD will be stationed if there are other locations the county can recommend. But she has clarified that the new location should be within Seongju.
Seongju residents, including lawmakers from the Daegu-North Gyeongsang belt claim that the anti-missile shield’s far-reaching radar system is likely to cause damage to people’s health and agricultural crops. They also worry that the existence of such a powerful military asset could also make the county a military target if an inter-Korean armed crash occurred.
Their logic does not coincide with the majority of voters for the conservative Saenuri Party, which has sought a close military alliance with the U.S. over the past few decades. They are threatening to withdraw their faithful support for the ruling party in the coming elections.
If they are being honest about their objections, Seongju residents should oppose the THAAD deployment in the nation irrespective of the location. If the Daegu-North Gyeongsang area lawmakers promise to stage a protest against THAAD being stationed in any part of this peninsula, they could not be accused of suffering from “not in my backyard” syndrome.
The decision to station the missile defense unit was a strategic decision between the two close allies against Pyongyang’s continued missile threats to Seoul, Tokyo and Washington. There is an urgent need for the residents -- as citizens of the Republic of Korea -- to settle the feud by accepting the president’s desperate proposal for a compromise.
It is time for them to make concessions in a response to the president. They are now entitled to choose another location, such as a backcountry area with a lower population density than the rest of Seongju.
Some opposition lawmakers are demanding that the THAAD deployment should get parliamentary approval or public endorsement through a national referendum. This negative reaction from the opposition camp is hardly surprising, but it is indeed disturbing that even ruling party lawmakers have joined the protest.
A group of Saenuri lawmakers representing Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province constituencies had issued a statement protesting the selection of Seongju. Among them were members of Park’s inner circle, such as former ministers and senior Blue House aides. Then comes the NIMBY sentiment among the residents.
Every citizen should be ready to make some sacrifices to protect the lives and the properties of the nation. There are already numerous military facilities nationwide and people living in those neighborhoods have given up some of their rights and welfare for national security.
Park’s proposal came during her meeting with some lawmakers from Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province. The lawmakers should stop cheating themselves and take the initiative in placating the irritated residents.