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    » 12/21/2012, 00.00

    KOREA

    Korea, Christmas tree returns to border with North

    Joseph Yun Li-sun

    The tradition halted in 2003 on the basis of a cooperation agreement between Seoul and Pyongyang. This year, the outgoing government of Lee Myung-bak grants permission: "At least the border guards will be able to enjoy a little bit of religious freedom."

    Seoul (AsiaNews) - After a gap of nine years, the giant Christmas tree is back on the border between the two Koreas. The outgoing government of Lee Myung-bak, who will be replaced by the newly elected Park Geun-hye, has granted some Christian churches permission to install the giant lit tree near the military demarcation line. The tradition was interrupted in 2003 as part of an agreement on inter-Korean cooperation.

    This was announced by the spokesman of the Ministry of Defence, Kim Min-seok, who spoke immediately after the announcement of Park's victory: "The tree will be lit from December 22 to January 2 and will be illuminated in order to be able to provide guards North of the border at least a little religious freedom". A Protestant congregation in Seoul will take care of the arrangements.

    Kim said "the government wants to continue the tradition that was interrupted in 2003 as part of a reconciliation agreement with the communist government." The agreement remained in force despite Pyongyang's military increasingly pressing provocations: in 2010, some Christian groups had prepared a huge tower, but that was demolished a year after the death of Kim Jong- il.

    There is no religious freedom in North Korea. The few places of worship open in Pyongyang "smokescreens", buildings that are shown to the few visitors allowed in the country where, however, no religions are practiced. The Christian population was decimated after the division of the peninsula at the end of the Korean War, and the taking of power by Kim Il-sung. AsiaNews sources speak of "not more than 200 thousand Catholics" left in the country.

     

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    See also

    02/12/2014 KOREA
    Korea, giant Christmas Tree returns to border between North and South
    The Seoul government has granted the Christian Council of Korea to turn on the lights of the huge metal structure, topped by a cross, which will be visible up to 10 miles away. On December 23, a church service and the singing of Christmas carols.

    23/12/2015 KOREA
    Korea, a sign of peace: huge Christmas tree on the border with the North "will not be turned on"
    The metal structure, 30 meters high and visible for 10 kilometers, has for years been a source of conflict between the two nations. On or off depending on the level of tension on the peninsula, it is more a political than a religious symbol. The agreement reached between the Protestant groups "a gesture of peace and harmony".

    03/12/2011 KOREA
    A Christmas tree ready to light up North Korea
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    23/12/2010 KOREA
    After seven years, Christmas tree on border with North
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