Source: Popular Resistance
July 18, 2016
By Kim Il-woo, www.english.hani.co.kr
Above Photo: A bus ridden in by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province during a protest by residents opposed to the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system, July 15. (by Kim Tae-hyeong, staff photographer)
Enraged residents of Seongju gathered near County Office to protest decision to deploy THAAD with no input from locals
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Defense Minister Han Min-koo made their great escape from a bus parked next to the Seongju County Office in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province, at 5:30 pm on July 15.
Shielded by security guards and police officers, Hwang and Han were off the bus in an instant and disappeared behind the County Office. County residents who had been surrounding the bus shouted and ran after them. One of them said, “That guy they call the Prime Minister is busy trying to stay out of sight and run away. How pathetic!”
A sedan ridden in by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province during a protest by residents opposed to the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system, July 15. (by Kim Tae-hyeong, staff photographer)
Residents blocked the road with tractors
A chase scene unfolded on the road next to the County Office. Hwang and Han hurriedly got into a black sedan. A scuffle broke out between the residents who were trying to block the sedan and the security guards and police officers trying to pull them away.
The sedan drove down Simsan Street behind the county office and toward the Seongju Interchange, a feeder road for the expressway.
Residents blocked the road with tractors, trucks and cars, but ultimately after having a crash with a resident’s car, the sedan carrying Han and Hwang managed to cross Gyeongsan Bridge around 6:15 pm and disappeared in the direction of the expressway.
“They hadn’t said a single world about Seongju before they suddenly announced they would be deploying THAAD here. And then they came down to Seongju and only parroted what the media has already been saying. I think they must take us for fools. Whether Seongju or anywhere else, THAAD must not be deployed,” said Kim Hak-jong, a 55-year-old resident of Chojeon Township.
Residents of Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province block a minibus taken by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Defense Minister Han Min-koo during a protest outside of Seongju County Office, July 15. (by Kim Tae-hyeong, staff photographer)
Opposed to THAAD!
Hwang and Han came down to Seongju at 11 am on Friday to appease the residents of the county.
Since 10 am, about 3,000 residents (according to police estimates) wearing red headbands that said “Opposed to THAAD!” had been holding a rally against THAAD deployment in front of the Seongju County Office. Around 800 students from local elementary schools, middle schools and high schools joined the rally, either leaving class early or not going to school at all.
“Once again, I should apologize that we were unable to tell you sooner,” Hwang told the residents as he stood in front of the entrance to the county office.
Next, Hwang tried to win over the crowd with security concerns. “North Korea is working on nuclear weapons every day. Since national security is in trouble and the people’s lives and safety are at risk, the government had no choice but to take preparations,” he said.
Bring your sons and grandsons and live in front of Seongsan Hill
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn’s staff and security guards use an umbrella to block eggs thrown at him by residents of Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, July 15. (provided by Maeil Newspaper)
But Hwang’s words only poured gasoline on the county’s rage. Residents threw eggs and water bottles and shouted at Hwang and the others with him.
“Hwang and Han, why don’t you bring your sons and grandsons and live in front of Seongsan Hill where they’re going to deploy THAAD. I’ll even build a house for you. If you do that, I’ll believe you,” one person shouted.
After being hit with eggs, Hwang, Han and the rest of the group hurriedly took shelter inside the county office. Around 11:40 am, the group slipped out of a side entrance to the office and boarded the bus. But before they could depart, they were discovered by residents.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (centre) inside a bus in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province during a protest by residents opposed to the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system, July 15. (by Kim Tae-hyeong, staff photographer)
About 500 residents surrounded the bus and demanded that Hwang and Han get out of the bus and promise to withdraw their decision to deploy THAAD. In the afternoon, around 500 more residents gathered round the county office. At 1:30 pm, residents parked two tractors in front of the bus to block it.
“Online, people are already calling Seongju melons ‘THAAD melons’ and ‘electromagnetic melons.’ Does the government mean to ruin us?” shouted Bae Cheol-ho, a 64-year-old resident of Seongju Township.
So we’re just dogs and pigs and only you are citizens?
“So we’re just dogs and pigs and only you are citizens?” one person shouted at the bus. “The US and North Korea are [already] supposed to be at war, so why are you doing this [deploying THAAD] now?” another said.
Seongju County Mayor Kim Hang-gon and lawmaker Lee Wan-yeong, who represents the area in the National Assembly, attempted to intervene, but they backed down after the crowd turned its insults on them.
“Hwang and Han have heard what you wanted to say during their visit and they understand your position. They get how serious the situation is, and they will take time to come up with several options,” Rep. Lee told the crowd at 4 pm. But Hwang never left the bus.
A candlelit vigil
A candlelit vigil in opposition to the THAAD deployment kicked off in front of the county office at 8 pm on Friday, the fourth day of the vigil. Around 2,000 residents attended the vigil, which was the largest number of people to attend any vigil held here.
All government deliberation about the deployment site for THAAD occurred behind closed doors until the decision was announced. Faced with stiff opposition from local residents, the government finally moved into damage control mode, but it was not enough. The Seongju protests are the result of the government’s undemocratic and secretive approach to decision making and its slow response to public anger, critics say.
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