UCAN REPORT- Catholic priest says lighting a Christmas tree near the North Korean border “hampers peace.”
“Following mutual agreement, we have not lit the tower for six years in order not to provoke each other. Relighting it implies the resumption of slanderous verbal attacks and confrontation,” Father Baptist John Kim Hun-il warned.
Father Kim, executive secretary of theKorean Catholic Bishops Conference sub-committee for Aid to North Korea, acknowledged recent provocations by Pyongyang. “However, we should consider past efforts for detente on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.
On Dec. 21, Yoido Full Gospel Church held a lighting ceremony for the Christmas tower on Aegibong Hill in Gimpo, Gyeonggi-do province, just south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
The two Koreas agreed in 2004 to stop propaganda warfare near the border line. The agreement included the tower at Aegibong.
First established in 1954, the 30-meter-high tower is set on a 150-meter high hill and can be seen as far away as Kaesong (Gaeseong) across the border.
North Korean authorities criticized the tower as a tool of “psychological warfare through (its) wide electronic display”. They warned that the tower could be the flash point for an armed clash and even an all-out war.
South Korean military forces have dispatched 80 marines, ambulances, fire trucks and a surveillance radar to the zone. The troops remain on full alert.
“There is growing tension between North and South Korea after the recent military conflicts. Relighting the tower provokes the North and could lead to abandoning peace,” Father Kim noted.
“The two Koreas should try to adhere to previous mutual agreements to prevent war in the peninsula,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, the tower will continue to shine until midnight on Dec. 25.