Despite fears of another international ballistic missile attach from its northern neighbor, South Korea is in no hurry to set up an advanced missile defense system designed to protect its shores from North Korean aggression.
Pending a full review, further installation of the $923 million Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, was suspended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in June. China, who vehemently opposes the technology, welcomed the move. And Seoul isn’t expected to shift its stance even as Kim Jong-un’s regime threatens “merciless blows” to its enemies.
Jenna Gibson, director of communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America, wrote in a note published this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, it’s because the American hardware carries emotional political baggage for South Koreans. “THAAD is not about China, or even the U.S. — it is about scandal-ridden former President Park Geun-hye.”
the note explained that South Korea’s core issue with THAAD is the fact that THAAD was initiated by Park — the country’s first democratically elected leader to be ousted from office via impeachment.
Once news broke of Park’s role in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal last year, her image was greatly scarred.
According to Gibson, while she was still in office to prevent her successor from reversing the decision, Park hurried through the deployment of THAAD’s initial two missile launchers, many believe.
Earlier this year, the initial stages of THAAD deployment took place in South Korea. When the U.S. shot down a simulated ballistic missile, the system, paid for by Washington, was tested last month. However, a May poll revealed that the majority of South Koreans oppose sudden THAAD deployment.
“Demand for democracy is particularly high because of the candlelight revolution, and demand for democratic procedural legitimacy for the THAAD deployment is, therefore, high,” Moon told the U.S. Congress earlier this month during a visit to Washington.
His demand for a probe wasn’t a reversal of deployment plans, reassured the former human rights lawyer, who also reportedly questioned THAAD during his election campaign.
In a realization that triggered an official probe into the entire system, the president discovered that four additional THAAD missile launchers were installed without his knowledge in May.
“These procedural issues, along with the fact that a full environmental review of the deployment area was not previously conducted, raised concerns among the Korean public,” Gibson said.
Even as Washington has long pressed for swift missile defense implementation, that situation is a red flag for Washington.
“I’m troubled by the fact that it is now going to be resubmitted for political debate in the Republic of Korea as to whether or not they will accept our $923 million investment in missile defense for their country,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said in a June 7 hearing. “I can’t follow their logic here.”
(Adapted from CNBC)