Koreas | South Koreans shave heads to protest US missile defense system
Seoungju County Governor Kim Hang-gon gets his head shaved during a protest against the government's decision on deploying a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit in Seongju, in Seoul, South Korea, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Seoungju County Governor Kim Hang-gon gets his head shaved during a protest against the government's decision on deploying a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit in Seongju, in Seoul, South Korea, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

South Koreans shave heads to protest US missile defense system

August 15, 2016 6:22 AM (UTC+8)

 

By Minwoo Park

SEONGJU, South Korea (Reuters) – About 900 South Koreans shaved their heads on Monday to protest against a government decision to place a missile defense system designed to counter North Korean missile threats, in the southeastern county of Seongju.

Seoungju County Governor Kim Hang-gon gets his head shaved during a protest against the government's decision on deploying a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit in Seongju, in Seoul, South Korea, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Seoungju County Governor Kim Hang-gon gets his head shaved during a protest against the government’s decision on deploying a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit in Seongju, in Seoul, South Korea, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Tension has run high since North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed up with a satellite launch and a string of test launches of missiles.

South Korea announced in July that a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit would be deployed in Seonjgu, but residents have protested, citing safety fears over the system’s sophisticated radar and its potential to be a wartime target.

The plan has also angered China and prompted a North Korean warning of retaliation.

Seongju residents, many of them farmers cultivating a melon variety that has brought the county domestic fame, sat in somber silence as they had their heads shaved while a protest leader led a crowd in chants of “No THAAD!”

“THAAD should not be deployed at all, not just in Seongju, but anywhere in South Korea,” said Yoo Ji-won, a 63-year-old melon farmer. “We residents gathered here and shaved heads to demonstrate against its deployment.”

As many as 908 people joined in the head-shaving part of the protest, organizers said.

“This is the most powerful way of displaying protest,” protest leader Kim An-soo said. “We cannot protest any bigger”.

The South Korean defense ministry has vowed to minimize any impact from THAAD on residents and the environment.

“THAAD is a self-defensive measure we’ve decided to deploy to protect the lives of our people from North Korea’s reckless provocations,” South Korean president Park Geun-hye said in a speech on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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