THAAD and Seongju, South Korea – A Story of Nonviolent Protest

by SeongHan Kim

South Korea thaadI would like to introduce my dear friend and colleague Mr. Choi Yong Chul. He is one of the residents of Seongju County, South Korea. On August 14, along with 900 other residents, Choi shaved his head in protest. To have 900 men and women shaving their heads in protest in one place is an unusual thing. What happened in this small town?

For many of you, the acronym THAAD probably does not make any sense. However, in South Korea, everyone recognizes this strange word. Recently the US military and South Korean government have agreed to the deployment of THAAD in the Seongju area. THAAD (or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is a US anti-ballistic missile system. It is a part of the US’s ambitious Missile Defense System, which mainly prepares for possible missile attacks from an enemy. The problem is that when THAAD is deployed into the Korean peninsula (the US already operates THAAD in Guam and Okinawa), US military will have powerful radar detecting capability, which will cover many part of China and Russia.

On the surface, the constant threats from North Korea seem to be a good reason to have THAAD on the Korean peninsula. Yet THAAD is not efficient enough to protect South Korea from conventional weapons or a short range missile attack from North Korea. It primarily only serves the US interest and is triggering military tension in East Asia as well. For China, the recent THAAD deployment agreement is seen as a hostile action. Diplomatic relations between China and South Korea have suffered as a result.

Seongju is a beautiful rural area, made famous by its sweet yellow melon produce. I have spent many days and nights in this beautiful area for conferences and biking. Now the people in Seongju are struggling not only against the government’s decision of where to deploy THAAD, which is only 3 km from downtown Seongju , but also against THAAD itself. They immediately realized that THAAD only serves the US’s geopolitical interest. There is no place for THAAD in Korea including Seongju. THAAD is not bringing the peace, but war. Over the last 30 days, the residents of Seongju have continued their anti-THAAD movement, including a mass shaving of heads in protest.

You are invited to participate in the struggle of Seongju through prayer and action. You may join us by clicking the link below:

SeongHan Kim (PhD. Cand.) is on staff with Korea InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as an area director in Chuncheon. His research interests lie at the intersection of missiology and peace studies. Currently he is working on the relationship between ethnic nationalism and Christianity in Korea.

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