Advertisement

Across the river from North Korea, a laser light show for peace

The South Korean city of Gimpo held a laser light show and performance across the river from North Korea on Saturday night to celebrate the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI
1 of 9 | The South Korean city of Gimpo held a laser light show and performance across the river from North Korea on Saturday night to celebrate the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

GIMPO, South Korea, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- On a snowy Saturday night, the South Korean city of Gimpo held a laser light show and performance for two audiences: local residents and -- perhaps -- their North Korean neighbors across a narrow river.

The event celebrated the first full moon of the Lunar New Year at Aegibong Peace Ecopark, an exhibition hall and observatory on the Jogang River that offers an unparalleled view of small North Korean villages, farms and military posts less than a mile away.

Advertisement

"We would like to send a message of peace to North Korea," Gimpo Mayor Kim Byung-soo told UPI before the show began. "When the lights go up, we hope they can see it."

As darkness fell Saturday, an enormous LED full moon installation and laser lights illuminated the night sky -- the first time such a display has been held in a border area, according to organizers.

The program also included music, dance and the ceremonial decoration of a tree with messages of hope and peace.

The good wishes come at a time when inter-Korean relations are at their lowest point in years, however, amid a steady stream of weapons tests from the North and a hardened military stance from the South.

Advertisement

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un proclaimed South Korea the "principal enemy" and publicly rejected a longstanding official policy goal of peaceful reunification. Pyongyang's rubber-stamp parliament also ditched its laws on economic cooperation with the South earlier this month.

Gimpo, a satellite city west of Seoul, opened Aegibong Peace Ecopark in 2021, replacing an observatory that had been left abandoned for several years.

The site is one of several areas along the DMZ designated for "peace tourism," a project that began during a period of inter-Korean rapprochement in 2019 but has faced hurdles due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising hostilities.

Aegibong has welcomed around 250,000 visitors since its reopening, according to Gimpo officials, and has hosted other nighttime events such as a Christmas tree lighting in December.

Saturday's festivities were also meant to send a reassuring message to South Korean and international visitors, the mayor said.

"People might imagine that this place is dangerous because it's located close to North Korea," Kim said. "But actually it is peaceful and safe for everyone."

Along with the positive vibes, the signs of a country still technically at war with North Korea are unmistakable. Barbed wire fences and military checkpoints line the roads leading up to the park, which remains home to a regiment of South Korean marines.

Advertisement

"We will constantly send peaceful messages to North Korea," Kim said. "But we also would like to say we have enough power to be dangerous."

Latest Headlines