Korea church scraps border Christmas lights
Residents fear reprisals and shelling from North
A South Korean church group has scrapped plans to display Christmas lights near the border with North Korea after residents voiced fears Pyongyang might shell the illuminations.
The Military Evangelical Association of Korea had planned to set up the giant display on three tree-shaped steel towers on hills near the heavily fortified border.
The proposal required approval from the defense ministry as the hills are within three kilometers of the frontier.
According to the ministry, local residents had protested against the plan on the grounds it might provoke a military response from North Korea. As a result, the church group agreed last week to shelve the proposal.
"We respect the group's decision," a ministry spokesman told AFP.
Before the South's "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with North Korea launched in 1998, the seasonal lighting displays were common.
Pyongyang repeatedly condemned them as "psychological warfare" aimed at spreading Christianity to the isolated socialist North.
In 2004 the two Koreas agreed to halt official-level cross-border propaganda and the South stopped the Christmas border illuminations completely.
They were resumed in 2010 after North Korea shelled a frontline island, but were postponed last year in a conciliatory gesture following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.
Church leaders are again using their influence to speak out against dark times
Stella Maris Major Seminary was suppressed by the government but re-emerged, training priests for Vietnam's parishes
A recent strike has resulted in dozens of arrests but most will be released after buyers pull out of a summit
Authorities scramble to verify reports Juergen Gustav Kantner was killed after ransom deadline expired
Famous couple have a son with autism and are raising awareness about the condition