South Korea court upholds confidentiality of U.S. THAAD documents

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  Nov. 10, 2017 at 1:04 PM
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Nov. 10 (UPI) -- A South Korean court ruled Friday that classified government documents pertaining to a deal to jointly deploy U.S. missile defense on the peninsula should remain confidential.

A Seoul administrative court, presided over by Judge Kim Yong-cheol, turned down the lawsuit filed by Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a progressive organization that has opposed the presence of the THAAD batteries in central South Korea, Yonhap reported.

The legal group, also known as Minbyun, had filed the suit as early as March 2016, about a year prior to the full deployment of THAAD.

The progressive lawyers had requested disclosures of a bilateral working group meeting, THAAD site evaluation reports and other classified information.

Seoul's defense ministry rejected the lawyers' demands and said the documents were "Level 2" --classified files that could not be released to the public until 2026.

Minbyun released a statement condemning the ministry's response, and had claimed Seoul's military was in "clear violation of the people's right to know" how Seoul and Washington agreed to deploy U.S. missile defense in relative secrecy.

"This secrecy hinders the monitoring, criticism and democratic control of the THAAD deployment project," the group had said, prior to filing the lawsuit.

The South Korean court presiding over the case said Friday disclosures of the documents could pose dangers to national security -- and ruled in favor of confidentiality.

During and after THAAD deployment, China imposed unofficial sanctions against South Korean businesses to express its opposition to U.S. missile defense in the region.

The sanctions may have been lifted, but according to South Korean ruling party lawmaker Kim Young-ho, China continues to feel the "great pressure" of the U.S.-South Korea alliance, Maeil Business reported Friday.

Kim, who defied the administration of former President Park Geun-hye by meeting with Chinese contacts in August 2016 to discuss THAAD, said Chinese sentiments about South Korea have recovered since the two sides agreed to put aside the THAAD dispute.

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