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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 20)

All News 07:14 July 20, 2016

Ensuring THAAD safety
Scientific, objective explanation needed to quell rumors

The government's efforts to convince Seongju residents of the safety of U.S. missile interceptors have not been enough to assuage their firm opposition to the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in their town.

Although belated, Seoul and Washington have been expanding media activities with the aim to ensure the public of THAAD's safety. The defense ministry held a briefing with newsroom chiefs of the southeastern Yeongnam region, Monday, to explain major issues relating to THAAD deployment. On the same day, the Korean media was visiting the site of an advanced anti-ballistic missile battery in Guam. This was the first time the U.S. allowed foreign media to access a THAAD battery at the Andersen Air Force Base on Northern Guam.

During the Korean media's tour, U.S. officials stressed that every effort will be made to ensure that the THAAD battery in Korea will be operated safely. But even after such a rare media event, Seongju's anti-THAAD movement is getting fiercer as concerns still remain over adverse health effects from the electronic pulses from the radar that comes with the system and potential harm to their fruit produce. The fact that similar systems in the U.S., Japan, or Guam are not situated in a populous inland area as Seongju, a town of 50,000, have added to the residents' anger.

In light of the increasing threat from North Korea, many Koreans support the government's decision to deploy THAAD. A Gallup survey published July 15 showed that 50 percent of the respondents were in favor of THAAD deployment. But the government's lack of communication has fueled public worries, and rumors about the health and environment hazards linked to the THAAD system.

The Park Geun-hye administration should make every effort to address the complaints of Seongju from here onwards. It should meet regularly with the residents through briefings to properly hear their concerns and reflect them in their countermeasures to support the residents after THAAD deployment. Even in Japan, protests about the hazards of THAAD system are ongoing despite a meticulous advance review before deploying a AN/TPY-2 X-band radar used to detect incoming targets at the Kyogamisaki military base in Kyoto in 2014. In June, more than 300 protesters complained of the noise level and other issues in front of the base.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn knelt down when meeting with the administrative chief of Sejongju last week, but his visit only turned into a violent scene. This should not discourage the government from making consistent efforts to convince the residents with sincere explanations and specific countermeasures that are acceptable to them.

The government also needs to provide more scientific explanation that the THAAD system will not pose threats to the Seongju resident's safety and livelihoods. For this, an objective and meticulous environmental report is crucial as the government has yet to provide concrete proof that there will not be safety issues 20 to 30 years down the road.

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