Protesters hold slogans during a rally to oppose the plan to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in Jimchon-shi, South Korea, March 8, 2017. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)
The last spell of winter cold penetrated the Gimcheon station in southeast South Korea, but thousands of residents gathered once again on Wednesday night to light candles for protest rally against Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).
The 200th candlelit vigil was held at Peace Square in the Gimcheon station, North Gyeongsang province, bringing residents in the city as well as those from nearby regions to the peaceful rally that has been staged every night.
The candlelight rally has lasted since the THAAD deployment site was changed in September last year into a golf course in Seongju county, which borders and faces the Gimcheon city. The deployment decision was announced in July last year.
Shouting for "Stop THAAD" got much fiercer as South Korea's defense ministry announced the arrival in somewhere in South Korea on Tuesday of two mobile launchers and part of equipment necessary for THAAD installation.
THAAD is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, one X-band radar and the fire and control unit.
No advance procedure has been completed, but South Korea hurriedly brought the U.S. missile defense system to politicize security issues ahead of an early presidential election. THAAD opponents said the conservative politicians are highly likely to want a "THAAD" presidential race in which all of public attention is centered on security issues.
Voters here tend to cast ballots conservatively when tensions are escalated with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). A presidential election is forecast to be held in May as the constitutional court is set to make a final ruling on President Park Geun-hye's impeachment on Friday.
"I came here to oppose THAAD that is never necessary for us and teases us," said Kim Tae-jin, a Gimcheon citizen who participated in the candlelit vigil. Kim said he can never accept the THAAD deployment in his hometown as the installation is not in national interests and did not go through proper procedures such as public consensus.
People in Seongju county and Gimcheon city announced a plan to file a lawsuit at a Seoul court against South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo for abuse of power and dereliction of duty as parts of THAAD battery were carried in without appropriate procedures.
"If people do not agree with THAAD deployment, (the government) is pushing it illegally. It enraged me, and I came here," said Nam Ki-woong, the candlelit vigil participant who came from a nearby city Gumi.
Nam said the arrival in South Korea of part of the THAAD battery was "ridiculous" as it was done without a public consensus, noting there would be no reason for the defense ministry to exist as its action put people in danger.
Seoul's defense ministry claimed THAAD is a weapon for defense, but the U.S. missile defense system is aggressive in nature as it boosts arms race and breaks regional strategic balance.
More missile shields in the region bring more nuclear missiles that can break through the missile defense systems.
Kim Hyo-min, a high school student, said she attended the candlelit rally as she cannot understand why the war weapon should be placed in his hometown and home country.
Park Hyo-jin, a Gimcheon citizen who participated in the rally with her 11-year-old child, told Xinhua that the rally was for next generations, including her child, as next generations will never require THAAD.
They started to chant for "Desperate Opposition to THAAD Deployment" in one voice with other participants. The cold night's shout will be heard in the same place until the deployment decision is reversed.