Up in Arms
The South Korean village at the center of an anti-war movement
During the Korean War, Soseong-ri, an agricultural village 120 miles southeast of Seoul, was so remote, so nestled among hidden valleys, that residents were insulated from any sign of the conflict. While bombs pummeled the land in other parts of the country, farmers in the village continued tilling theirs. Today, Soseong-ri remains small — it’s comprised of roughly 160 people, most of whom are in their 70s and 80s — but it is far less quiet. In February, South Korea’s defense ministry selected a hillside golf course in the area as the site for the U.S.’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), designed to shoot down missiles from the North.
The village has since become the center of an anti-war movement, with many believing that the new weapons will sour relations with nearby China and make South Korea more vulnerable to attack. Thousands of South Koreans have flocked to the village in protest, and residents, too, are expressing their discontent. Buddhist monks pray in 12-hour shifts alongside young activists who have pitched tents outside the U.S. Army base. Farmers, who have spent generations harvesting melons in the region, now leave their fields early to protest. Older women, who once spent their mornings playing Go-Stop, a traditional Korean card game, now congregate to watch the news. Banners criticizing the American military’s presence have been strung from trees, and people have taken to the roads leading to the base in an attempt to block vehicles from transporting equipment.
As one villager put it, “I live a life of endless tension and fatigue, which I never experienced before.” Here, people share, in their own voices (주민들의 목소리를 들어 보자), what life is like in Soseong-ri.