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Sunday 25 February 2018

South Korean PM pelted with eggs by residents angered by US anti-missile system

South Korean PM Hwang Kyo-ahn, bottom centre, is shielded by his bodyguards from eggs thrown by residents at Seongju County Office (Kang Jong-min/Newsis via AP)
South Korean PM Hwang Kyo-ahn, bottom centre, is shielded by his bodyguards from eggs thrown by residents at Seongju County Office (Kang Jong-min/Newsis via AP)

Angry residents in a rural South Korean town have thrown eggs and water bottles at the prime minister in protest at a plan to deploy an advanced US missile defence system in their neighbourhood.

Earlier this week South Korea announced that the missile system - called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) - will be placed in the south eastern farming town of Seongju by the end of next year to better cope with North Korean threats.

Seongju residents launched protests, saying they fear possible health hazards from the missile system.

Prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, accompanied by the defence minister and others, tried to explain the decision to residents but was immediately disrupted by jeers.

Some hurled eggs and water bottles, shouting "We oppose (the THAAD deployment) with our lives," according to TV footage.

Mr Hwang did not appear to be directly hit by any objects as security guards and aides used umbrellas and bags to protect him.

But his suit jacket was covered by eggs and he was evacuated to a town hall office.

When he and the others came out of the building into a bus they were surrounded by hundreds of protesters, some using tractors.

South Korean officials have dismissed as groundless a belief that THAAD radar systems emit electromagnetic waves that can cause health problems. Defence officials say the US system is harmless if people stay at least 100 metres away from it.

Seongju residents criticised the government for unilaterally deciding on the deployment without consulting them.

About 200 Seongju residents made a protest visit to Seoul's defence ministry on Wednesday, and some wrote letters of complaint in blood. A group of 13 local leaders went on a hunger strike.

Defence minister Han Min Koo told residents on Wednesday he would personally stand in front of the radars to prove they are not harmful.

The planned missile system deployment drew an angry response from North Korea and China.

North Korea has threatened unspecified "physical" measures in retaliation while China suspects the system would help US radars track its missiles. Russia also opposes the deployment.

US and South Korean officials have said the THAAD system only targets North Korea, not China or anyone else.

Seoul and Washington began their formal discussions on the THAAD deployment after North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test and carried out a long-range rocket launch earlier this year.

The United States has about 28,500 troops in South Korea as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea. American-led UN troops fought alongside South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War while China assisted North Korea.

Press Association

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