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Kim's death 'pulls plug on border lights'

Religious group welcomes decision, warns against reviving custom next year

Kim's death 'pulls plug on border lights'
Rev Lee Juk under the contentious tower
by Stephen Hong, Seoul

December 22, 2011

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An alliance of religious groups opposed to the lighting up of a Christmas tree-shaped tower near the tense border with North Korea has welcomed a government order to scrap the plan. Reverend Lee Juk, from the Committee Against Lighting on Aegibong Hill, an association of 28 religious and civic groups in Gimpo, said today the decision was a good one and warned against reviving the plan again next year. “It was only postponed for this year because of Kim’s death,” he said. Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said on Tuesday the decision was a conciliatory gesture to the North as it is in a period of mourning for its leader Kim Jong-il who died on December 17. Prior to Kim's death, Pyongyang had criticized the lights plan as provocative “psychological warfare”. The tower was due to be lit from December 23 to January 6 by two Protestant churches including the Yoido Full Gospel Church. Rev Lee, who is a pastor of the DMZ Peace Church urged the government and the Yoido Church “to scrap the idea altogether.” However, a Defense Ministry spokesman suggested the lights could be lit next year. He told reporters today the ministry had instructed the two Protestant churches not to light the tower and thanked them for complying with the order, but added:  “We have to see what will happen next year.” Built in 1954 after the Korean War (1950-53), the 30-meter-high tower sits on the 150-meter-high Aegibong hill and can be seen as far away as Kaesong (Gaeseong) in North Korea across the border. The two Koreas agreed in 2004 to stop cross-border provocations which included the traditional lighting up of the Aegibong tower. South Korea revived the Christmas tradition last year following two attacks by North Korea that killed over 50 peoples. Related reports: Festive lights spark border row    
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