12/02/2014, 00.00
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.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - After months of controversy and judicial appeals, the government has granted the Christian Council of Korea permission to rebuild the huge Christmas tree on Aegibong peak. The hill, which is directly across the border with the North, is 165 meters high. Considered by some as a tool of "psychological warfare" with the North, the metal shaft and the cross that surmounts it will be visible to  North Korean people living up to 10 kilometers from the border.

The official announcement was made this morning by the Seoul Ministry of Defense, who also guaranteed "protection" to the Christian faithful who will gather for the lighting ceremony. The dimensions of the structure are still not clear, "between nine and 35 meters high." Seoul has not yet decided whether or not to allow the Christian group to restore the original giant tree, demolished in November after 43 years.

For officials of the Park Geun-hye government the destruction of the old tree was "motivated by security reasons. The frame was old and dilapidated. We have not decided if the new can be as high as the original one or whether it will be smaller". The lighting ceremony is scheduled for 23 December, when the members of the Council will gather for a church service and the singing of some Christmas hymns. The tree will remain lit and visible for two weeks.

Built in 1971 - at the height of tensions between the two Koreas - the huge frame was switched on or off according to the highs and lows of political relations between the neighbouring nations.  In 2004, to great fanfare, Seoul declared that the tree "would be lit up again" because "an agreement had been reached" with Pyongyang. However in 2010, after the sinking of the South Korean Cheonan which killed 43 people, the Christmas lights returned.

 

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