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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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Korean tensions resurface... over giant Christmas tree

Happy Holidays!, says the South, as it lights up a 30m ‘tree’ near the border. The secular North isn’t too pleased.

Image: Lee Jin-man/AP

TENSIONS on the Korean peninsula have risen once again – over plans by a Christian church to light up a 30m ‘tree’ near the countries’ heavily-guarded border.

The Yeouido Full Gospel Church, based in Seoul, last night illuminated its 30-metre ‘tree’ – a string of giant fairy lights draped around a broadcasting mast – near the demilitarised zone last night, a move which would further push tensions between the two Korean nations.

North Korean authorities slammed the tower as being a method of “psychological warfare through [its] wide electronic display.”

The tree had been an annual fixture until 2004, when the South agreed to put a stop to the tradition as part of moves between the two nations to stop cross-border propaganda measures.

South Korea abandoned that convention, however, in March of this year after the sinking of the Cheonan submarine, which killed 46 sailors. Seoul has long accused North Korea of sinking its vessel, a claim the North has constantly rejected.

Fearing that the lighting of the ‘tree’ may be deemed a provocation by authorities North of the border, however, South Korea has put marines on guard to protect the tree, which is within range of Northern gunfire.

Local governor Kim Moon-Soo insisted that Northern gunfire would be seen as a “reckless and provocative” act.

South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted a Southern military official as saying that North Korean military units put more officers on patrol last night than would be routine.

The tower is to remain illuminated until midnight on Christmas Day.

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Gavan Reilly

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