South Korean anti-missile protesters score victory

As Donald Trump and and Kim Jong-un exchange nuclear threats, anti-missile protesters in rural South Korea scored a win, prompting Seoul to delay plans to expand the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery that the Pentagon installed in April. On Aug. 10, the South Korean government announced indefinite postponement of a study to measure  levels of noise and electromagnetic pollution from the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system, responding to an ongoing protest campaign by local residents and activists. The ministries of National Defense and Environment planned to begin the survey in the village of Seongju, where the battery has been placed, on the same day the postponement was announced. The announcement came as villagers and activists were blocking the road to the THAAD base.

President Moon Jae-in ordered the survey in June, shortly after taking office in the wake of national protests that brought down his predecessor. A THAAD battery typically consists of six launchers, 48 interceptors, a communications unit, and a radar installation. Two of the launchers have been operational since April. After North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, Moon said the remaining four launchers would be deployed to counter the threat. The expansion is now on hold due to the delay in the impact survey.

Residents living near the site, however, are still demanding a full environmental impact study, which would require the withdrawal of the anti-missile system and take about a year to conduct. (Korea JoongAng Daily, Yonhap, Aug. 10)


  1. Was it really an ICBM?

    It is widely reported that the rocket fired by North Korea into the Sea of Japan on July 3, which attainied an altitude of about 2,720 kilometers, was an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists finds it was a "not quite" ICBM, which could possibly hit Alaska but not the 48 connected states.

    Of course the date of the launch was chosen for symbolic purposes, a stunt North Korea has pulled before.

  2. South Korea: THAAD missile deployment completed

    Riot police were sent in to clear the roads of protesters and clashes ensued as the four remaining launchers were installed at the THAAD facility in Seongju on Sept. 7. Critics say that President Moon Jae-in has broken his promises on the issue, which included conducting a full environmental impact study and giving the National Assembly the final say in the matter.  (Xinhua, Reuters, Korea Herald)

  3. North Korea’s nuclear tests spreading ‘ghost disease’

    North Korea's nuclear tests are spreading a "ghost disease" that is deforming babies and sickening civilians exposed to radiation, defectors said in a report published Dec. 3. "So many people died we began calling it 'ghost disease,'" Lee Jeong Hwa, a defector who used to live by a nuclear testing site, told NBC News. (Newsweek)

  4. North Korean defectors show signs of possible radiation exposure

    Four defectors from the area near North Korea’s nuclear test site showed symptoms that could be attributed to radiation exposure, but scientists said they could not conclude that the health problems had been caused by a nuclear test, the South Korean government said Dec. 27. The four arrived in South Korea from Kilju, a county in North Korea's northeast that includes Punggye-ri, where the North has conducted all six of its nuclear tests in tunnels beneath the mountains. South Korea began conducting medical exams of defectors from that region in October, after the North conducted its biggest test explosion yet. (NYT)

  5. Koreans seize the initiative, sideline Trump

    Some optimistic analysis is provided by the 38 North blog, which closely monitors North Korean politics. They find that Kim Jong Un is serious about re-opening dialogue with the South, and that the initiative isn't only about driving a "wedge” between Washington and Seoul. Perhaps the Koreans themselves have seized the initiative and sidelined Trump, and his buffoonish bellicosity. Very good. Talks are set for this week, and as Xinhua notes, the liaison office at the border village of Panmunjom has been re-opened. It was shut down after the previous South Korean government unilaterally closed the inter-Korean industrial zone in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong in February 2016. The shutdown followed the DPRK's fourth nuclear test the previous month.