S Korea to turn on Christmas lights on tense N Korea border
South Korea will display Christmas lights near its tense border with North Korea for the first time since 2004 following the regime's deadly artillery attack last month, military officials said today.world Updated: Dec 15, 2010 12:09 IST
South Korea will display Christmas lights near its tense border with North Korea for the first time since 2004 following the regime's deadly artillery attack last month, military officials said on Wednesday.
The South has partially resumed a cross-border propaganda campaign since the March sinking of a South Korean warship and the bombardment of a border island, which killed four people including civilians and sparked outrage.
Since the attack, the first on a civilian area since the 1950-53 war, Seoul has also staged a series of military drills in a show of strength against Pyongyang.
The defence ministry said it has approved a request by the Seoul-based Yoido Full Gospel Church to set up Christmas lanterns on a steel tower atop a military-controlled hill.
The church is expected to switch on the lights on December 21 on the 155-metre hill, which is just three kilometres from the border and overlooks the North's Kaesong city, it said.
The two Koreas in 2004 reached a deal to halt cross-border psychological operations and the South stopped the church from switching on the lights to mark Christmas and Buddha's birthday.
The communist North had accused the South of displaying Christmas lights to spread the religion among its people and soldiers. The North's constitution provides for religious freedom, but the US State Department says this does not in practice exist.
Seoul began preparing to restart its propaganda war following the sinking of the warship with the loss of 46 lives. It installed loudspeakers along the land border but has not yet switched them on.
Seoul says a North Korean torpedo sank the ship, a charge denied by Pyongyang.
Soon after last month's artillery attack, the South's military reportedly floated 400,000 leaflets across the border denouncing the North's regime.
"There is no reason for our side to abide by the 2004 agreement because of North Korea's military provocations," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP, declining to confirm the leaflet launches.
The loudspeakers are designed to blast anti-regime and pro-democracy messages deep into the border region — up to 24 kilometres at night and 10 kilometres during the day.
North Korea, one of the world's most closed societies, has threatened to open fire on the loudspeakers if they are switched on, and also to fire at locations from where balloons carrying leaflets are released.
In addition to the reported military operation, private activist groups frequently float huge balloons across the heavily fortified frontier. These carry tens of thousands of leaflets denouncing the regime of Kim Jong-Il.