GIMCHON, South Korea, March 17 -- As the U.S. missile defense system Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) is scheduled to be deployed soon in South Korea, residents near the site started waves of protests against the plan.
The system is scheduled to be deployed at Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province by the end of this year.
Anti-THAAD banners can be seen on the streets of Gimchon, a neighboring city with a population of 140,000, located 7 km north of the deployment site.
"NO THAAD, NO WAR," "We want peace back," some of the banners read.
"Let's sell THAAD out of South Korea, and GET RICH!" one said with bitter humor.
Over 200 protests have been held in the small city recently. Almost every night, about 100 people, including the elderly, women and students, gathered in the city's train station square in the chilling wind to protest against THAAD deployment.
"The business is not as good as before, many guests and visitors are afraid of the THAAD system. We heard that the radar's radiation is bad for the environment," a shopkeeper said.
A market vendor said THAAD will bring war to them and their peaceful life will be gone. The radiation from the radar will also compromise the quality of local agriculture produce, such as grapes and melons.
"Our mayor is also against THAAD, but it doesn't work," he said.
Gimchon-Gumi, a newly developed district of Gimchon just a few kilometers away from the downtown, has a high-speed train station linking to Seoul and Pusan. Real estate developers plan to build apartments for commuters working in big cities.
Over 20 apartment buildings are for sale in this district, but few have moved in. Many windows hang yellow banners of "NO THAAD."
At mid-noon, only a few people can be seen on the streets. Most of the ground floors designed for commercial use are empty, with advertisements saying "For rent, good price."
"Apparently the THAAD makes it more difficult to develop (the Gimchon-Gumi district) as planned," a hotel staff member said.
In July last year, South Korea and the United States agreed to install one THAAD battery by the end of this year. The schedule was brought forward to June and August and now as early as April.
China and Russia have strongly opposed the U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea as it breaks regional strategic balance and threatens security interests of the two countries.
THAAD's X-band radar can peer deep into the territories of the two countries.