SKorean 'professional' protesters under fire

Ruling party wants those accused of stirring up aggression over planned deployment of US missile defense system penalized

SKorean 'professional' protesters under fire

World Bulletin / News Desk

South Korea's ruling party demanded Monday a crackdown on protesters accused of fueling anger in a rural county that was recently chosen as the site for an incoming American missile defense system.

This month's announcement that Seoul and Washington had decided to go ahead with the deployment of THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, was met with strong disapproval from critics at home and abroad.

Some residents around Seongju County -- located nearly 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Seoul -- have expressed their concern about living so close to a potential target for a North Korean attack, while other grievances include the potential health problems caused by THAAD's powerful radar.

Meanwhile, China and North Korea have long been suspicious of moves by the United States on a peninsula where there are already nearly 30,000 American military personnel.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn paid a visit to Seongju late last week to reassure locals over their THAAD fears, but was met with flying eggs and bottles.

As Hwang's car was held up for hours, the ruling Saenuri Party's floor leader called for justice against those who apparently had traveled to Seongju to make trouble.

"Those that incite violent protests for a living should be punished," Chung Jin-suk was quoted as saying by news agency Yonhap. "We need to distinguish reasonable opinion-gathering of residents from the violence done by the outsiders."

As police investigate the incident, the head of a protest group in Seongju also insisted that "outsiders" were responsible for the violence.

South Korea has already come under the scrutiny of a United Nations rapporteur for heavy handedness in policing protests -- especially when tens of thousands of demonstrators filled central Seoul last November to rally against a range of government policies.

Meanwhile, the unification ministry was adamant Monday that North Korea poses a serious threat.

“North Korea seems to be fully prepared to carry out a nuclear test at any time," a spokesperson told reporters amid recent reports highlighting increased activity around the same tunnel that saw the North's claimed hydrogen bomb test in January.

The move had led to strengthened UN sanctions against the reclusive state.

North Korea's foreign ministry, on the other hand, kept the blame for regional tensions squarely on the U.S.

"Raising chances of a conflict on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. continues to carry out joint military drills and brings nuclear-powered submarines, bombers and other strategic weapons, including [THAAD], into South Korea," a ministry spokesperson said, according to Pyongyang's state-run KCNA news agency.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Temmuz 2016, 09:26
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