South Korean officials will let a Christian group rebuild a metal, tree-like “Christmas tower” near the Korean DMZ, a move likely to anger North Korea, according to reports. Pyongyang officials warned in November of the “catastrophic impact” the rebuilt structure would have on cross-border relations, according to Agence France-Presse.
Shaped like a Christmas tree with decorated lights and a cross, the 30-foot tower will be constructed on a hilltop about two miles from the demilitarized zone. “We accepted the request to protect religious activities and to honor the group’s wish to illuminate the tower in hopes of peace on the Korean peninsula,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok said Tuesday, according to the New York Times.
The Christian Council of Korea requested permission to build the tower. A similar 60-foot structure that had stood at the location since 1971 was torn down in October over safety concerns, the BBC reports. Christian groups protested the tower’s removal and petitioned for the construction of a newer structure.
The new “Christmas tower” will be illuminated for two weeks, from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6. “It will look like a bigger version of the typical Christmas tree you see and will be about nine meters high,” a CCK spokesperson told AFP.
Though typically lit during the Christmas season, the old structure was not illuminated in 2011 after the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. The Christmas tower was also left dark in 2013 amid increased tension between North and South Korea.
The North Korean government decried attempts to reconstruct the South Korean Christmas tree as a provocation, as the old structure was used to broadcast anti-Communist propaganda during the Cold War. Officials warned South Korea not to rebuild the structure in November. “The tower is not a tool for religious events but a symbol of manic attempts to raise cross-border tension and prove armed conflicts,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said at the time.