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Can the spirit of Christmas defeat Kim Jong Il?

A South Korean church has erected a giant Christmas tree near the North Korean border. As gestures go, it’s better than missiles I guess:  The method of delivery was a giant, brightly lit Christmas tree, reportedly visible from Kaesong, the border city on the northern side of the demilitarized zone dividing North and South. The ...

A South Korean church has erected a giant Christmas tree near the North Korean border. As gestures go, it’s better than missiles I guess:

 The method of delivery was a giant, brightly lit Christmas tree, reportedly visible from Kaesong, the border city on the northern side of the demilitarized zone dividing North and South. The tree serves a propaganda role, reminding of repression and the lack of religious freedom in the North. Yet even in the tumult of plummeting North-South relations, it may also serve as a beacon of continuing Korean brotherhood.

In previous year’s South Korean officials have prevented the Yoido Full Gospel Church, one of the world’s largest Christian congregations, from setting up the tree out of free of provoking North Korea. This year, local officials have expressed concern over possible North Korean retaliation: 

 Concerns have been raised that North Korea might attempt to attack the tower on the hill, particularly given that it faces an area of the North which houses a large number of Chosun People’s Army personnel.

However, pointing out that yesterday’s artillery exercise on Yeonpyeong Island would be no justification for any attack on the lights, [Gyeonggi governor] Kim [Moon Soo] said, “It preserved very well the sanctity of our national sovereignty,” before emphasizing, “There should be no further splits in public opinion.”

Nevertheless, North Korea regards the Christmas lights as one element of psychological warfare, and as such may feel that they are a suitable target, particularly following yesterday’s exercise, which Pyongyang publicly vowed to respond to but has not, as yet, done so.

If any place on earth needs a little peace and goodwill this holiday season it’s the Korean Peninsula. Here’s hoping Kim Jong Il isn’t feeling grinchy. 

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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