On March 18, approximately 5,000 people from across South Korea gathered in
Soseong-ri, Seongju County to protest the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High
Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system. The action was organized by a
coalition of anti-THAAD task forces composed of residents in Seongju and
Gimcheon near the deployment site, as well as the Won Buddhists, and joined by
similar task forces formed in Daegu/North Gyeongsang Province and Busan/Ulsan/South
Gyeongsang Province, as well as a national task force composed of
peace/anti-war organizations and a long list of civic groups.
Days before the peaceful demonstration, the local police attempted to block
protesters from marching towards the former Lotte Golf Course, slated to be
turned into the deployment site for the THAAD system. The protest organizers,
however, won court approval to march to as close as 25 meters from the main
entrance of the deployment site.
Grandmas of Soseong-ri: “No THAAD! Never give up!”
Elderly residents of Soseong-ri (a village in Seongju County just 2 miles from
the deployment site) joined the national peace march. Leaning on walkers, they
marched with high spirits, held up big picket signs and chanted, “Illegal
THAAD, back to the U.S! THAAD, go away! Come Peace!”
The U.S. recently transported two THAAD launchers and other parts of the THAAD
battery to South Korea. Those at the frontlines of the struggle — the
residents of Seongju and Gimcheon and the Won Buddhists — have called on
people across South Korea to join them in opposing the THAAD deployment. The
residents have been holding weekly protests in Soseong-ri, and Won Buddhist
priests have been holding overnight prayer sit-ins on Jinbat Bridge, the only
road leading to the deployment site.
In response to reports that the U.S. may soon transport the THAAD radar to the
deployment site, South Koreans from different regions are coming together to
demonstrate the strength of the national opposition. Another national action
is planned for April 8.
Won Buddhist Priests Face Police Violence
Following the national peace march in Soseong-ri, Won Buddhist priests set up
for a sit-in protest on Jinbat Bridge, which leads to the deployment site.
Every night since early March, Won Buddhist priests have been holding
overnight prayer sit-in’s on Jinbat Bridge. Due to inclement weather
conditions, the priests began to set up a “peace tent” to avoid the rain but
were met with violence from the police.
Without any verbal warning, the police used force to take down and remove the
tent. The residents of Seongju and other protesters attempted to help the
priests and block the police from destroying the tent. Several were injured in
the process. A few of the protesters sustained serious enough injuries to
require ambulances to transport them to the hospital.
The Won Buddhists submitted a complaint demanding the police issue an official
apology and take measures to ensure that such an incident will not happen
again. They also demanded punishment for the police officers responsible for
inciting the violence.