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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Anger grows in South Korea over US anti-missile system

Update : 03 May 2017, 06:41 PM

The anger is palpable on a narrow road that cuts through a South Korean village where about 170 people live between green hills dotted with cottages and melon fields. It's an unlikely trouble spot in the world's last Cold War standoff.

Ageing farmers in this corner of Seongju county, more than 200km south of the capital Seoul, spend the day sitting by the asphalt in tents or on plastic stools, watching vehicles coming and going from a former golf course where military workers are setting up an advanced US missile-defence system.

"Just suddenly one day, Seongju has become the frontline," said a tearful Park Soo-gyu, a 54-year-old strawberry farmer. "Wars today aren't just fought with guns. Missiles will be flying and where would they aim first? Right here, where the THAAD radar is."

Anger has boiled over in Seosongri village since last week when US and South Korean military workers used the early-morning hours to rush key parts of THAAD into place. The system had been scheduled to enter operation by the end of the year, but South Korea's Defence Ministry said Tuesday that it is already capable of defending against North Korean missiles. The ministry didn't say when the deployment would be completed.

Hundreds of banners hang on trees and fences along a kilometre stretch of the road up to where police have cut off access. They say "Withdraw the illegal THAAD immediately" and "Stop US militarism," slogans that would feel familiar in a leftist rally but are unusual in the country's traditionally conservative southeast.

In this April 28, 2017 photo, South Korean residents attend a rally to oppose a plan to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, near the system's site in Seongju, South Korea. The letters read on the banner "Nullify Illegal THAAD Agreement." Clashes between residents and police over the deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile system highlight a divisive issue ahead of South Korea’s presidential election on May 9. (AP Photo/Kim Tong-hyung) In this April 28, 2017 photo, South Korean residents attend a rally to oppose a plan to deploy an advanced US missile defence system, THAAD, near the system's site in Seongju, South Korea AP

"Yankee, go home!" a man yelled as he banged his fist on a car apparently carrying US soldiers, before dozens of police officers peeled him and other protesters away from the vehicle.

There's also frustration about an increasingly heavy police and military presence in an area where outsiders had been mostly limited to small groups of weekend golfers. Residents are also concerned about the rumoured harmful effects the electromagnetic waves from THAAD's radar might have on them and their crops. Seoul's Defence Ministry calls such worries groundless.

Residents say at least 13 people were treated at hospitals for injuries including broken bones and teeth after a violent clash last week between dozens of villagers and supporters and some 8,000 police officers who were mobilised to remove them from the road.

Three days later, more than a hundred police officers ended an hourslong standoff by swarming a handful of people who had been blocking a mountain path with a tractor to prevent construction equipment from entering the THAAD site. Police detained a man and drove away the tractor as villagers showered them with insults, including "dogs" and "Americans' slaves."

Several people were hurt in another clash on Sunday as police tried to remove protesters blocking two US military oil trucks from entering the THAAD site. Residents said the trucks turned away because cars protesters had parked to block the road couldn't be towed.

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