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South Korea: Christian group can put up Christmas tree on border

North Korea has threatened to shell the 30-foot Christmas tree a Christian group plans to put up on a 400-foot hill on the border.

By Frances Burns
The 18-meter Christmas tree tower on top of Aegibong, Gimpo, is torn down on Oct. 22, 2014. Courtesy of Yonhap file photo
The 18-meter Christmas tree tower on top of Aegibong, Gimpo, is torn down on Oct. 22, 2014. Courtesy of Yonhap file photo

SEOUL, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The Christian Council of Korea can erect a 30-foot Christmas tree near the border with North Korea, South Korean officials say.

The Defense Ministry approved the tree because the group described it as a gesture for peace and religious freedom, a spokesman, Kim Min-seok said.

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A tower on top of a 400-foot hill west of Seoul was converted to a Christmas symbol with lights and a cross every year from 1971 to 2004, angering the North Korean government. During a period of warmer relations between the two Koreas, the tree was abandoned but appeared again in 2010.

The South Korean government tore down the tower earlier this year on safety grounds, although Defense Minister Han Min-koo later told legislators the decision was wrong. The CCK has been given permission to put up a smaller 30-foot tower.

The tree is to be lit for two weeks from Dec. 23 into January. The North Korean government has threatened to shell it.

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