As stupid and naive as it may sound, especially considering the tense standoff between North and South Korea over the sinking of the S. Korean war vessel Cheonan, the 46 deaths of South Korean sailors and the recent North Korean bombardment of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, the South Korean government has given explicit permission to a South Korean Christian group to light up Christmas trees near the infamous 38th parallel and in range of North Korean artillery. Because you know, caroling in front of the houses of reclusive neighbors and annoying them is paltry compared to caroling in plain sight of hostile, armed men who probably think those lights are signals for an air-borne bomber code-named “Santa’s Sled”.
Specifically, the Christian group has decorated at least two steel towers on a 155 meter high hill approximately 3 kilometers away from the border.
Though the South Korean government says the decision was based on the principles of the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion the country upholds, it’s really most likely a defiant and provocative gesture that’s may or may not be propaganda for either South Korean civilians or North Korean soldiers manning the border.
The lighting of the Christmas steel towers stopped in 2004 when North Korea made a deal with South Korea on banning the propaganda “wars” where South Korea would blast radio messages over to North Korean soldiers and North Korea would often do the same while displaying idyllic banners and even constructing the world’s third tallest flagpole in Kijŏngdong, a largely uninhabited “city” near the border.
However, the lighting of the Christmas ‘trees’ renewed again last year when the tensions between the two countries was at their highest.
This year, the North Korean government via Internet railed against the South Korean government’s approval of lighting the Christmas ‘trees’.
North Korean officials accused their counterparts of trying to carry out “psychological warfare” and trying to “convert our soldiers to Christianity.”
Furthermore, though it didn’t say what it would do, the North Korean government threatened South Korea with “unexpected consequences” that would have the South Korean government solely responsible for those consequences.
In a manner of response, akin to the U.S.-South Korean military exercises held despite North Korean protests, the South Korean government has ordered the placement of even more security near the border, closer to the ‘trees’ from December 23rd, when the lighting starts, and until January 6th when the lights will go out.
(Cover Photo: South Korean Christians sing a hymn in front of a Christmas tree on top of the Aegibong Peak Observatory just south of the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas in Gimpo, west of Seoul December 21, 2010. South Korean military allowed Christians to erect a Christmas tree on Tuesday on top of the observatory controlled by South Korean marines, which is located about 3 km (1.9 miles) south of North Korean territory, while the North warned against it, according to local media. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak)