The anger is palpable on a narrow road that cuts through a South Korean village where about 170 people live between green hills dotted with cottages and melon fields. It's an unlikely trouble spot in the world's last Cold War standoff.
Aging farmers in this corner of Seongju county, more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the capital Seoul, spend the day sitting by the asphalt in tents or on plastic stools, watching vehicles coming and going from a former golf course where military workers are setting up an advanced U.S. missile-defense system.
"Just suddenly one day, Seongju has become the frontline," said a tearful Park Soo-gyu, a 54 year-old strawberry farmer. "Wars today aren't just fought with guns. Missiles will be flying and where would they aim first? Right here, where the THAAD radar is."
THAAD is shorthand for Terminal High Altitude Defense, which the South Korean and U.S. governments say is critical to cope with a growing missile threat from North Korea. When completed, the battery will consist of six truck-mounted launchers that can fire up to 48 interceptors at incoming missiles detected by the system's x-band radar.
Anger has boiled over in Seosongri village since last week when U.S. and South Korean military workers used the early-morning hours to rush key parts of THAAD into place. The system had been scheduled to enter operation by the end of the year, but South Korea's Defense Ministry said Tuesday that it is already capable of defending against North Korean missiles. The ministry didn't say when the deployment would be completed.
Hundreds of banners hang on trees and fences along a kilometer (half-mile) stretch of the road up to where police have cut off access. They say "Withdraw the illegal THAAD immediately" and "Stop US militarism," slogans that would feel familiar in a leftist rally but are unusual in the country's traditionally conservative southeast.
"Yankee, go home!" a man yelled as he banged his fist on a car apparently carrying American soldiers, before dozens of police officers peeled him and other protesters away from the vehicle.
The local anger highlights what has arguably become the most explosive issue ahead of a presidential election next week. The May 9 vote will likely end a decadelong conservative rule that maintained a hard line against North Korea and agreed to the THAAD installation.