South Korea THAAD protester dies after setting himself on fire

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  Sept. 20, 2017 at 9:28 AM
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Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A South Korean THAAD protester died after setting himself on fire while standing on the rooftop of an 18-story building in Seoul, according to local police.

Cho Yeong-sam, 58, reportedly shouted anti-THAAD slogans and called for the success of South Korean President Moon Jae-in's administration before suffering fatal third-degree burns over his body, Yonhap reported Wednesday.

"THAAD must go, peace must stay," Cho said. "The government of Moon Jae-in must succeed."

Cho, a resident of Miryang, North Gyeongsang Province, also said the Moon government must succeed in order for his country to "have a future," according to the report.

Cho, who was once arrested for violating South Korea's anti-communist national security law, traveled to North Korea in 1995, using a route through China.

He eventually returned to the South in 2012, after living in Germany as a fugitive. He was arrested and later sentenced to a year in prison in 2014.

THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is the U.S. anti-missile defense system deployed in central South Korea. It is designed to shoot down incoming missiles.

A coalition of South Korean activist groups held a press conference outside Hallym University Medical Center in Seoul -- and blamed THAAD deployment for Cho's death.

"A person has died because THAAD was illegally deployed," the group said, standing before the hospital where Cho's body was taken on Wednesday. "This is government-initiated murder."

Anti-THAAD activists also called for the suspension of THAAD deployment. They said Cho died because he could "no longer bear to watch the South Korean government cave in to pressure from the United States," local news service Money Today reported.

South Korean police said Cho poured a liter of combustible lacquer or paint thinner on himself at about 4:10 p.m. on Tuesday and set himself on fire.

Police said they found a four-page manifesto at the site demanding the removal of THAAD.

Cho was taken to the hospital then was pronounced dead on Wednesday morning.

In early September, dozens of South Korean protesters were injured when the U.S. military installed four additional THAAD launchers in Seongju.

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