South Korea plans to let a Christian group reconstruct a hilltop tower near the inter-Korean border that’s used as an ad hoc Christmas tree and has been the subject of threats from North Korea.
Tuesday’s announcement from Seoul’s defense ministry comes weeks after the dismantling of a 1970’s steel tower that used to be decorated at the end of the year with lines of light bulbs and a cross on top. Built on Aegibong, a hill west of Seoul and just miles from North Korean town of Kaesong, the tower’s lights were visible from across the border.
Pyongyang, which views religion as a threat to its leadership cult, issued frequent objections against “the tree,” calling it a tool for psychological warfare and threatened to fire artillery at it. The ministry said the old tower was dismantled due to safety concerns for tourists that visit the hill, after tests showed structural problems.
Conservative Protestant groups shortly after began campaigning for its reconstruction. The Christian Council of Korea, one of the biggest such organizations, said last month that the tower was a symbol of peace and not a tool for propaganda.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo early last month said in a parliamentary hearing that removing the tower “wasn’t the right thing to do.”
North Korea responded with another round of protests, saying through its state media that the tower “is not just a means for religious events but a symbol of madcap confrontation racket for escalating tensions.”