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Christmas Cheer Idle

North Korea Threatens South Korea Over Christmas Lights 441

Posted by samzenpus
from the you're-a-mean-one-mr.-jong-il dept.
K7DAN writes "North Korea warned South Korea on Sunday of 'unexpected consequences' if Seoul displays Christmas lights near the tense border, and vowed to retaliate for what it called 'psychological warfare.' From the article: 'The tree-shaped, 30 metre-high steel structure on Aegibong hill - some 3km (2 miles) from the border - was illuminated by thousands of small light bulbs last year. It could be seen from the North's major city of Kaesong across the border, according to media reports. Pyongyang has previously accused Seoul of using the tree to spread the Christian message to people inside the secular state.'"
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North Korea Threatens South Korea Over Christmas Lights

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  • Pot, kettle, black (Score:5, Informative)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:21AM (#38342362)

    what it called 'psychological warfare.'

    Big words for a country that built an entire town [] on their side of the border, just for propaganda.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:31AM (#38342478)
    Be fair... there have been previous Wars on Christmas. Puritans banned it for a time in England, considering the holiday two full of Catholic and Pagan influences and having objections to celebrating the solumn occasion of Christ's birth with drunkenness and partying. Then Puritans banned it again in the New World later on, for exactly the same reasons. Some Islamic countries continue to ban it, fearing that celebrating even the secular elements of Christmas could open their culture up to Christian influences. There have been plenty of Wars on Christmas... usually by Christians.
  • More detail (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:45AM (#38342640)

    It is not Seoul or the South Korean government that display those Christmas trees.

    They're 45% without religion and 23% Buddhist.

    Those Christmas trees belong to Roman Catholics (~10%), who are allowed to have them - by the government.

    I wish people would also distinguish more between a) Country, b) Population, c) Government (even though some still believe b) is responsible for c)

  • Re:odd all around (Score:5, Informative)

    by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:07AM (#38342884)

    Wikipedia [], as well as a recent talk on this that I heard, disagree with the Linus's origin of the trees. The christmas tree apparently originated in Germany (or perhaps eastern Europe), and has either unknown or distinctly christian meaning-- for the Germans, it was apparently related to the story of Adam and Eve (paradise tree).

    Apparently, the Germans brought it over to the US in the latter half of the 19th century, where it took root (haha) and became an "american tradition".

    I assume what you are referring to would be "sacred oaks" or "asherah poles", which almost certainly would NOT have been fir, and I highly doubt that christians would have embraced THOSE for christmas given the clear biblical attacks on such concepts. It IS true, however, that Christmas was not really celebrated until the 4th century, and is more a Catholic tradition than it is a Biblical event: Christ's day of birth is neither recorded nor celebrated until then, and thus noone really knows what his day of birth was (Ive heard "probably mid-september").

    Mostly agree with Linus however, that the meaning of Christmas is already heavily obscured, and has for the most part become either a celebration of togetherness or of consumerism, depending the family. For many Christians, the 'original' meaning (to celebrate Christ's birth) is still celebrated in various ways-- hence Christmas services, carols, and other religious activities.

  • Re:odd all around (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lakitu (136170) on Monday December 12, 2011 @12:43PM (#38344032)

    it absolutely is, and it's ridiculous for people to think otherwise or argue about, or that it's somehow not government sanctioned. Same goes for the gigantic flags that are on display on either side of the border. The North Koreans are obsessive about not being shown up by the "imperialists", and have even showfully walked out of meetings in the DMZ because there was a disparity in the size of flags, or their soldiers were not tall enough, or there was some other very arbitrary breach of protocol. Only to come back with taller soldiers, bigger flags, and more attitude.

    Of course, it takes two to tango, and the Americans and ROK Koreans are more than happy to play the game of flag waving, most notably in what ended up as Operation Paul Bunyan, when the simple desire to clear some trees from blocking a Southern outpost ended up with a group of North Koreans starting an axe-fight in the DMZ and killing an American. None of the Americans or ROK wanted to go to war over the death of one soldier, but goddamn were they were going to finish cutting down that goddamn tree, so the natural response was to launch what was at the time the largest military operation since D-Day. Aircraft carrier groups were brought in range and on standby, B-52s were in the air, helicopters were waiting in the air just beyond the hills all in support of a couple of trucks of Koreans and Americans and their chainsaw. There's a first-hand report linked to in the references section on wikipedia from this describing how weapons were smuggled in the back of the trucks and, in an attempt to provide cover while minimizing the potential for gunfire, some of the Koreans had strapped claymore land mines to their chests and stood on the bridge taunting and screaming like lunatics while the whole tree, and not just the offending branches, was cut down. All this for a damn tree branch!

    The trees in this article, while much less dramatic, are no different. It even says as much and doesn't just hint at it -- they are not actually trees but 30 meters-tall metal structures in the general conical shape of a tree, built on top of a hill just 3 km from the DMZ. It's tall enough, on top of a hill enough, and bright enough to be visible across the border from a city which cannot be supplied with electricity all the time, and in a lull of the posturing about a decade ago, it was barred from being lit. How could that be anything but psychological warfare or propaganda?

    That doesn't make it bad, either. It's part of a propaganda war which is continually exacerbated by the North. They don't have much to bring to the negotiating table, so they create it with these kinds of complaints, which are numerous and ridiculous, hoping to bargain it away for the crops they've stolen from their people and destroyed through terrible central management. Sometimes it's pretty meaningless, sometimes it involves the sinking of a ROK ship or shelling of a Southern island. Sometimes they have to complain about nothing just so that they don't lose face and look like they are too scared to complain. Often enough they can't even accept a good deal because they've painted themselves into a corner and always need to demand more or need to appear to be stronger or in better shape than they already appear.

  • by Lakitu (136170) on Monday December 12, 2011 @01:39PM (#38344778)

    The Korean war was certainly on a smaller scale than WW2, but it wasn't just a drop in the bucket. The North and its supplemental Chinese used all kinds of human wave tactics, literally just marching people off to their death and hoping that it would eventually overcome the other side. The UN and US forces were still in the WW2 era of technology -- there were almost 40,000 US deaths, compared to the almost 60,000 US deaths in Vietnam despite lasting for only three years. As an ideological, civil war, there were mass slaughters of the native Korean soldiers and civilians on both sides, with thousands being killed at a time. The bare minimum for civilian deaths is something like 2 million, and upwards of 3 million.

    This doesn't include the aftermath, when the country was severed in two and completely impoverished on both sides. South Korea has some glitz and glamour today, but it centers in a few cities, and there are still millions of people living in complete poverty. North Korea is like the post-Roman Dark Ages, except for the complete dictatorship that rules over the population armed with modern weapons. Today the population is much higher than in the 1950s, with one-third or one-fourth of the population of the USA living on a peninsula that's about half the size of California. Almost 1/3 the population of the South, about 20 million people, lives in the greater Seoul area, which is basically inside artillery range which could level huge sections of the city, and the people living there, in a very short amount of time.

    Nobody really knows what the North Koreans would do in a war, either. Many of them could fight to the bitter end regardless of what was actually going on. Some of them might believe the propaganda about the South and US being ruthless killers ready to slaughter them all and commit suicide like Japanese civilians and soldiers did even in the waning days of war in the Pacific in WW2. They might try to take as many people with them into death. Even in a quick war where the majority of North Korean soldiers surrendered, the leadership probably would not and would find all of the hardliners they could willing to fight.

    Even in the best case scenarios of a short, one-sided war, it would be a total bloodbath. North Koreans wishing to escape the fighting or just wishing to escape the area would pour over the borders both North and South, flooding into areas not able to support that many people so suddenly. There's even a potential of the Chinese invading along the north in order to capture territory, to prevent such a huge refugee crisis, and to guarantee the continued existence of a buffer zone not dominated by American interests so close to their territory. It would be an absolute humanitarian disaster no matter the outcome and would almost certainly be accompanied by millions of deaths even in the best-case scenarios.

  • Re:OMG (Score:4, Informative)

    by coliverhb (886806) on Monday December 12, 2011 @01:52PM (#38344998)

    You must be joking, right?

    As recently as 1990-1994 American Indians have had to fight for their ability to consume their religious sacrament. []

    Prior to 1930 the US had a policy to systematically destroy Native American religions and culture, and you're complaining about the Federal Government asking that ALL religious effigies be moved to private land? []

    Get over yourself! I bet you also believe there's a war on Christmas!

  • Re:More detail (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stizark (1962342) on Monday December 12, 2011 @01:59PM (#38345092)
    Look up the Celebration to Mithras, and Saturnalia. Christmas Trees were brought into the house and set up with baubles and lights to attract the faery and other kin folk so they'd have a nice warm place to reside during the bitter winter months. Candles and fires were lit as a symbolic gesture to entice the sun to return back to the world. December 25th was used because it coinsided with so many pagan traditions around that time-- but it was not the equinox. Christianity could not kill enough pagans to force people to cease their pagan rites. So they did what almost every conquering society did since the beginning of time-- they took in some traditions and made them theirs, and called it theirs, and after a couple generations people didn't know that they weren't. Usurping traditions and beliefs was very much easier when people didn't know how to read or write.
  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday December 12, 2011 @02:05PM (#38345182)

    "Without my admittedly superficial and limited knowledge of Christ and of Christianity, I would still have morals, but no power to live up to them"

    This is one of the things that's scary about religious people. Apparently acting morally because it's the right thing to do, or out of respect for other people isn't enough. They need an omnipotent being to tell them to do it. Quite a few seem to need the threat of eternal torture. And for many (most?) even that doesn't work. And of course, if you can be convinced that god actually wants you to do horrible things, you do them with truly alarming conviction.

  • Re:Why... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Martin Blank (154261) on Monday December 12, 2011 @05:17PM (#38347672) Homepage Journal

    They were absolutely critical. Once the Hind started serious deployment, the mujaheddin were getting ripped apart because the Hind was much better at nap-of-the-earth flight and thus surprise attacks, and the Afghan rebels had to get something to knock them down. The US was eager to not only slow the Soviet advance but also to get parts from downed aircraft, and would reward those who came up with more salvage with more weapons. The missiles' effectiveness caused Hind pilots to learn to make their birds perform maneuvers that the designers never imagined, and in doing so earned the healthy respect (at least on the battlefield) of mujaheddin warriors. Engineers at Mil and other places started coming up with modifications to try to neutralize the advantages the Afghans now had, much like the US had to do with its various weapon systems in Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan.

    The difference was that while the recent wars have perhaps dented the US economy, the Soviet economy was already shaky and the tactics and strategy did not evolve fast enough from a military or political standpoint to slow the losses to a level where it could be sustained, let alone won. Soviet popular opinion was also very much against the war (and had been for years), and contrary to popular belief about the USSR at the time, they could not simply round up a bunch of people and force them to fight. They tried to find a way to save face and end the war at the same time, but ultimately, the losses were too daunting and they had to retreat.

    Looking back on some of the articles, the statements that the Soviets made sound a lot like those the US is making. The commanding officer, Lt. Gen. Gromov, made public pronouncements on how Soviet forces were turning over security to the government, slowly drawing down forces in anticipation of leaving the country capable of handling its own defenses. Over the course of a couple of years, the drawdown of 115,000 troops was completed, with Gromov the last to walk across the bridge leading out of the country. One can only hope that more stability comes out of it ca. 2014 than 1989.

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