The South Korean government’s decision in early August to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) has aroused strong opposition for its disregard for citizens’ rights. North Korea is dangerous in that they occupy nuclear weapons that can potentially cause harm; but how far is our government willing to go, just to keep a particular agreement with the US, and how is that going to affect our nation in the near future?
For one, the decision to construct the system was made unilaterally by the government, only opening up to the public after it was already confirmed. For people residing in Seongju—where the system is to be placed—this was an incredibly unfair decision. The people that would be most affected by the enormous missile system in their backyard did not even have a notice before the construction actually began; while in a democratic society, the optimal answer should have been a referendum that considered the opinions of its citizens. Allowing the government to continue with the disregarding of potential stakeholders may lead to future abuses of power.
But even if you did not care about abstract democratic principles, it is important to consider whether or not the deployment of anti-ballistic missile system is even going to protect us from the notorious weapons of the North. The inherent purpose of the deployment was to implement a defense system against North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles, and supporters argue that it is necessary for security.
However, the system is only a starting point, as THAAD has not been proven in actual battle and needs many developments. Also, it is known that North Korea has already prepared a variety of methods to dodge these systems and there is no guarantee that the missiles will be enough to combat the North’s artillery. THAAD is ineffective even on the most basic issue of practicality, giving us no reason to sacrifice the sanctity of democracy and neglect the rights of our citizens.
Korea also has conflicts in its diplomatic relations with China. China has urged the relocation of the system so that it would not reach their borders, claiming the system is too close for comfort. Our alliance with China is extremely important on both economic and political terms, but China has started to show hostility, threatening our close ties. According to the Joongang Daily, China has cancelled both entertainment and culture festivals designed for Chinese tourists in Korea, and have even gone so far to ban the online streaming of Korean dramas for their citizens. Although these measures may seem insignificant, the enmity that China is giving off may lead to more opposition within the international arena.
It seems clear that THAAD has greater consequences than the government anticipated. In a democracy, when such policies cause weeks of riot and opposition from the people, the only answer should be to respect citizen voices. Continually neglecting the protests in the name of protection is simply granting the government too much power and its ineffectiveness is not worth the tradeoff between the system and our citizens.