April 13, 2018 09:55
Protesters led by leftwing NGOs and local civic groups on Thursday blocked a consignment of building materials for the site of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery in southwestern Korea despite earlier assurances to the Defense Ministry that they would let it through.
After negotiations they only agreed to let old construction equipment that had been piled up since last November pass through their barricades.
On Wednesday, the ministry told the protesters it would bring a fresh batch of equipment into the base to repair and upgrade soldiers' accommodation at the clubhouse of the former golf course where the THAAD battery now sits. They agreed but demanded to watch the process to make sure no further military installations are put in place.
The ministry had intended to bring eight dump trucks carrying sand to repair soldiers' quarters and build a toilet, a sewage treatment facility and a kitchen.
Due to the lack of these basic facilities, hundreds of U.S. soldiers at the THAAD site have been suffering from inhumane living and working conditions for more than 11 months. A Korean military insider said, "They have been feeding solely on instant military rations, MREs, for a year."
But some 150 activists and locals had staged a sit-in about 1 km from the base entrance since 4 a.m. on Thursday and did not budge in the face of some 4,000 police who made no serious effort to disperse them.
Ministry officials then promised the protesters that they would not bring the new materials and equipment but asked them to let the old equipment -- an excavator, a bulldozer, and a forklift -- out of the base. The protesters accepted and briefly stopped the sit-in.
The ministry said it will talk with the protesters about the scheduled construction again next Monday.
Critics say the ministry has been far too accommodating to the protesters, who are motivated partly by irrational fears of electromagnetic waves emanating from the battery.
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