Christmas Returns to Korean Border

A Christian group has been granted permission to rebuild a famed “Christmas tree” tower that was torn down earlier this year on the border separating North and South Korea. The tower and symbol of Christmas so angered North Korea they once threatened to bomb it.

The nearly 60-foot tower stood for 43 years and over the decades served as a brave symbol of hope to some while aggravating the North Korean government which shuns Christmas and religion.

It was part of a psychological warfare the two Koreas had continued to wage along the 155-mile border even after their three-year Korean War ended with a truce in 1953. Both sides carved their border hills with large slogans exhorting troops from the other side to defect to the capitalist South “for freedom” and to the “people’s paradise” of the communist North. They also sent radio broadcasts and balloons carrying propaganda leaflets into each other’s sky.

North Korea has repeatedly demanded the destruction of the high steel tower on top of a military-controlled hill just three kilometers from the heavily-fortified border.

In the past, it has even threatened to shell the tower which the South has allowed civilian groups to decorate with lights — including a giant illuminated cross at the top — over the Christmas season.

The defence ministry said it was dismantled for the sole reason that the 43-year-old structure had become unsafe.

“The decision was unrelated to inter-Korean relations. Safety was the main reason,” a ministry spokesman told AFP, adding that work to remove the tower had begun back in August.

On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said it had accepted a request from the Christian Council of Korea to build a temporary Christmas tower at the site where the old one had stood. The new tower will be illuminated from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6, the ministry said.

“We accepted the request to protect religious activities and to honor the group’s wish to illuminate the tower in hopes of peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the ministry.

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