[THE INVESTOR] Seoul’s decision to deploy a full US missile defense system is fanning controversy within the country, while concerns for further retaliation from China grows.
On Sept. 7, four more Terminal High Altitude Area Defense launchers were deployed at the site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province against resistance from activists and local residents.
Lawmakers of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party stage a sit-in inside the National Assembly hall on Sept. 8, demanding President Moon Jae-in to come up with measures to counter North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The conservative party has boycotted the legislature, which started its regular session on Sept. 4, over what they call the liveral president's "popular dictatorship."
China has been quick to criticize Seoul’s decision, raising concerns for further economic retribution against South Korean entities operating in the country.
Chinese authorities lodged a formal complaint with Seoul’s ambassador to China Kim Jang-soo on Sept. 6, and on Sept. 7 Beijing’s foreign ministry issued a statement calling on Seoul and Washington to call off THAAD deployment.
Chinese media outlets have also attacked development, with one daily claiming that THAAD will become a “cancer that damages regional security” along with North Korea’s nuclear program.
Such stance is fanning concerns for additional economic retribution against South Korean entities.
After Seoul decided to bring the US missile defense system to Korea, Chinese authorities subjected South Korean firms’ Chinese operations to various regulatory measures, while some consumer groups boycotted South Korean products, and businesses.
The government maintains that the deployment on Sept. 7 is temporary, but the move has been taken as the first step towards a permanent decision.
Critics say that Moon has broken his promises on the issue, which includes conducting a full environmental impact study and giving the National Assembly the final say in the matter.
While some Moon supporters who oppose THAAD deployment accuse the president of “betraying the candlelight spirit,” the government and the presidential office maintains that the move was unavoidable, and necessary in light of growing North Korean threat.
Cheong Wa Dae also refuted claims that the president has gone back on his word, citing the position Moon took on the issue in his election campaign.
During the election campaign, Moon stated that deploying THAAD is an option if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, and if Pyongyang cannot be controlled by China.
Regardless of Cheong Wa Dae and the government’s attempts to appease the public, Moon’s approval rating has taken a hit, falling to the lowest level since he took office on May 10. The latest Gallup Korea poll showed that Moon’s approval rating fell to 72 percent, while the figure came to 69 percent in a poll conducted by Realmeter.
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea, which has opposed THAAD deployment from the start, defended the decision saying that it was unavoidable in light of recent developments.
“The deployment of THAAD was an unavoidable choice to secure national security,” Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Woo Won-shik said on Thursday at the party meeting held after THAAD launchers were taken to the Seongju site.
With the exception of the leftwing Justice Party, the move has been welcomed by the opposition parties.
The conservative main opposition Liberty Korea Party, which has opposed and criticized Moon’s every move, has welcomed the decision while maintaining the attack on the administration.
“The Democratic Party should dismantle its THAAD committee immediately,” Liberty Korea Party Floor Leader Rep. Chung Woo-taik said.
“Deploying THAAD has taken 462 unnecessary days. The Democratic Party and President Moon Jae-in must apologize for fracturing Korea-US alliance, damaging Korea-China relations, and causing discord in the country.”
The Justice Party, for its part, accused the administration of double standards, with its members meeting the Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo on Sept. 8 to convey the party’s position.
By Choi He-suk/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)