South Korea is hoping to spread some Christmas cheer to North Korea this year with the construction of a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree alongside its border with the north, according to the Associated Press.
North Korea bans public religious practice, but a South Korean Christian group has been given the greenlight from the government to illuminate a tree on an overlook less than two miles from the border.
The height of the tree, coupled with the elevation from the hill, should enable North Koreans living in border towns to see the display.
The new tree is a replacement for a previous 65-foot-tall tower that was first set up in 1971 and had been modified to resemble a Christmas tree. The tower was visible over the border by North Koreans, leading the North to declare the tower a “provocative display of psychological warfare.”
The previous tree was taken down earlier this year among threats from Kim Jong Un to shell the tower, according to Rick Noack of The Washington Post.
To counter the holiday symbol, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime threatened to fire shells at the tower. Earlier this year, South Korea’s military took the structure down, arguing that it was no longer safe.
However, South Korea has seemingly back-peddled on its concerns that the tree may inspire a conflict with the north.
“We accepted the request … to guarantee free religious activities,” Kim Min-seok, South Korea’s defence ministry spokesman, said on Tuesday.
South Korea has a long history of engaging North Korea in propoganda wars. South Korean groups routinely fly propaganda balloons over North Korean territory. On occasion, these balloons are also filled with Biblical verses.
North Korea has also banned South Korean Choco Pies, a cookie-like treat, over fears that the junk food may undermine the revolutionary ideology of the North Korean masses.
The decision to build the Christmas tree comes amid constant hostility between the two nations. South Korea, supported by China, has expressed concern over North Korea’s drive to continue its nuclear weapons program. The countries also exchanged gunfire across the border twice in October.
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