‘Tis the season for psychological warfare? While Christmas trees around the world symbolize peace on earth and good will toward men, Seoul’s plan to hang lights near the most militarized border in the world has North Korea vowing to retaliate.
Seoul has decided to allow a church group to hang lights on a Christmas tree-shaped towers some two miles from the tense border.
When illuminated, the 100-foot tall structure, which is located on the military-controlled Aegibong Hill, can easily be seen from the North Korean city of Kaesong.
Additionally, the South Korean government also decided Sunday to allow other Christian groups to light two more front-line Christmas trees, a Defense Ministry official said, the Associated Press reports.
The official, speaking under condition of anonymity, said the move is meant to help guarantee freedom of expression and religion.
The South Korean military has plans to heighten security around the three tree-shaped towers, which are located at different points along the border.
However, North Korea’s official Uriminzokkiri news website said plans by South Korea to spread Christmas cheer amounted to “psychological warfare”, and that Pyongyang would retaliate immediately if Seoul went ahead with its plans, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports.
“The enemy warmongers… should be aware that they should be held responsible entirely for any unexpected consequences that may be caused by their scheme,” it said.
“This issue… is not something to be ignored quietly,” AFP cited the website as saying.
Pyongyang has in the past accused its southern neighbor of using the Christmas lights to spread Christianity within the closed Communist state.
Propaganda battles have been a regular feature of relations between the two sides since the Korean War reached a de facto end in 1953, though no peace treaty was ever signed.
But in 2004, the two Koreas reached a deal to halt border propaganda operations, which included the South’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony
However, in 2010, the tree was illuminated for the first time in seven years after the South accused the North of carrying out two deadly attacks.
After relations chilled that year, the South took to regularly dropping propaganda leaflets from airplanes and using large electronic panels to shine its messages across the border.
Private citizens have also used “balloon diplomacy” to deliver both provisions and messages via large helium balloons.
Perhaps more bizarrely, Seoul decided to reinstall 14 massive speakers on the border. The speakers, which regularly air a radio program called “The Voice of Freedom”, proclaim the greatness of living in the South to everyone within earshot.
One of the messages aimed at the North Koreans – who are frequently dependent on food aid from the outside world – conveys the news that food is available in such abundance south of the border that obesity has become a problem as people simply have too much to eat.