A private golf course has been chosen as the new site for an advanced US missile defence system to be deployed in South Korea by the end of next year to help cope with North Korean threats, military officials have revealed.
Seoul’s defence ministry originally announced in July that it had picked an artillery base in the rural farming town of Seongju as the site for the terminal high-altitude area defence, or THAAD, missile system.
But Seongju residents fiercely protested against the plan, raising fears over potential health hazards they believe the system’s powerful radar might cause.
The golf course, owned by South Korea’s Lotte business group, is also within Seongju, but located further from the town’s main residential areas.
However, residents of Gimcheon city, which borders the course, are angry at the move which had been the subject of media speculation for weeks.
A South Korean defence ministry official said ministry officials visited politicians and regional officials in Seongju and North Gyeongsang Province, which governs the town, to explain the decision.
A ministry note provided to politicians described the golf course as ideal because it would require less construction than two other possible sites which were on mountains.
The ministry plans to start talking about buying the course from Lotte, which said in a statement that it will “positively consider” the proposal.
Ministry officials began exploring alternative sites after South Korean president Park Geun-hye in August promised to consider a new location to “lessen the anxiety” of residents in Seongju.
This came weeks after angry protesters pelted prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn with eggs and plastic bottles and blocked his bus for several hours during a visit to Seongj.
US and South Korean officials say they need the missile system to better deal with increasing North Korean military threats after North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test to date earlier this month.