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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 [wikipedia.org] on their side of the border, just for propaganda.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:37AM (#38342562) Homepage Journal

      what it called 'psychological warfare.'

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

      Yeah, well think about it. The government of North Korea is such an evil bunch of feckwits they can't even get coal for Christmas.

      • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:24AM (#38343054)

        Seoul-less heathens, the lot of them!

        • by hedronist (233240) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:50AM (#38343382)
          +3: Laughing at the DPRK is really the only thing you can do. Unfortunately you stop laughing when you think about what life inside the DPRK must be like. Grim does not begin to describe it.
          • by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Monday December 12, 2011 @12:09PM (#38343600)

            There's a National Geographic documentary you can watch free on Netflix (the Lisa Ling) one that gives a glimpse. Brainwashed citizens, traffic cops directing no traffic, empty roads... etc

            • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 12, 2011 @12:45PM (#38344052) Homepage Journal

              There's a National Geographic documentary you can watch free on Netflix (the Lisa Ling) one that gives a glimpse. Brainwashed citizens, traffic cops directing no traffic, empty roads... etc

              People in DPRK live to serve the government. They are effectively peasants and serfs, party members are vassals and the top generals are royalty, with the Kim Jong-il clan as the heriditary monarchy. This state is not communist, it's a throwback to the middle ages, when the King owned all the lands. Other than a little bit of planned economy, it's nothing like communism - because communisn is something people would strive for, not have forced upon them at barrel of gun or threat of dying in one dear monster's labor/re-education camps.

              • by Barefoot Monkey (1657313) on Monday December 12, 2011 @01:35PM (#38344708)

                People in DPRK live to serve the government. They are effectively peasants and serfs, party members are vassals and the top generals are royalty, with the Kim Jong-il clan as the heriditary monarchy. This state is not communist, it's a throwback to the middle ages, when the King owned all the lands. Other than a little bit of planned economy, it's nothing like communism - because communisn is something people would strive for, not have forced upon them at barrel of gun or threat of dying in one dear monster's labor/re-education camps.

                Some are born communist, some achieve communism, and some have communism thrust upon them.

              • by bkmoore (1910118)

                ....communism is something people would strive for, not have forced upon them at barrel of gun or threat of dying in one dear monster's labor/re-education camps.

                Yes, true communism is always something "on the horizon." But the march towards the horizon never reaches its destination. Sorry, but the best argument against communism is communism.

              • by Pooua (265915)

                People in DPRK live to serve the government. They are effectively peasants and serfs, party members are vassals and the top generals are royalty, with the Kim Jong-il clan as the heriditary monarchy. This state is not communist, it's a throwback to the middle ages, when the King owned all the lands. Other than a little bit of planned economy, it's nothing like communism - because communisn is something people would strive for, not have forced upon them at barrel of gun or threat of dying in one dear monster's labor/re-education camps.

                North Korea is implementing Communism on at least 2 counts:

                1) In Communism, the individual lives to serve the state. Communism is one form of Collectivism, and all forms of Collectivism consider the greatest good to be the benefit of the state, not the individual.

                2) Leninism, a form of Communism, states that bloody revolution is essential to converting society to Communism. Leninism advocates violent revolution as much as possible, to spread Communism.

                As for the ruling class of North Korea living better tha

      • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:52AM (#38343410)

        Yeah, well think about it. The government of North Korea is such an evil bunch of feckwits they can't even get coal for Christmas.

        Coal is expensive, bub. In Europe, really naughty kids are getting Euro's in their stockings instead.

        • by Jeff Hornby (211519) <{ac.ocitapmys} {ta} {ybnrohtj}> on Monday December 12, 2011 @12:05PM (#38343564) Homepage

          Don't knock the Euro. It won't be long before those bills will be rare and valuable collector's items.

          • by ackthpt (218170)

            Don't knock the Euro. It won't be long before those bills will be rare and valuable collector's items.

            Whoa! Guess I should take them off the toilet roll.

          • We generally call them notes, a fifty euro note etc, and often we just say the number, a fifty, a twenty, a tenner, a fiver. I've never heard them referred to as bills.
            Hopefully the euro won't disappear any time soon, but if it does, I imagine most of the notes would be far too common to ever exceed their former face value. BTW, assuming you're from the USA, I wouldn't be bragging about the dollar either. You could argue that we're merely trying to catch up to the dollar...in a race to the bottom.
            (hit the [yahoo.com]
    • 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:More detail (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sgbett (739519) <slashdot@remailer.org> on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:40AM (#38343270) Homepage

        I wish more people could distinguish more between christmas and christianity ;)

      • Moreover, it is not about religion. No one thinks their neighboring country has the best religion just because of a Christmas tree.

        It's about light. Look at the North Korean night sky [cnet.com]. The North Koreans don't have much light at night, so that Christmas tree just became the brightest object around, even if you're standing in the middle of a North Korean city.
        • Re:More detail (Score:4, Insightful)

          by KDR_11k (778916) on Monday December 12, 2011 @05:05PM (#38347524)

          So basically NK is worried that their people might see "hey, they got electricity on the other side of the border!"

          • So basically NK is worried that their people might see "hey, they got electricity on the other side of the border!"

            When you're telling your starving citizens that they've got it much better than the rest of the world - yeah, I can see why a brightly lit tree, whose only purpose is for decoration, would upset them.

  • OMG (Score:5, Funny)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:22AM (#38342366)
    King Jong Il is the grinch! What a twist!
  • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:24AM (#38342380)
    For the first time ever, the term "war on Christmas" is actually accurate.
    • 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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KiloByte (825081)

        We tend to pay too much heed to the number of people killed, and too little to decreasing the quality of life, when doing charts of "who was the evilest". If you add up the joy of life destroyed by Christianity, it doesn't take a big weighting to put Stalin, Hitler and Mao together to shame. And Islam is a close runner-up.

        • Quality of life under Sharia law is better than that in the bible belt? I sure wouldn't want to live under either circumstance, but it's not as if muslims never forcibly [wikipedia.org]tried to convert people [bbc.co.uk] the way those nasty christians did/do.
          I'm not defending the religious zealots of christianity by any stretch, but islam, overall, is actually worse. We just don't hear that much about it's history and oppressions here in the west. And xtianity worse than Hitler, Mao, and Stalin put together? lol. I think hundred
    • Someone doesnt remember Santa's 1972 armed invasion of Greenland and the resulting worldwide backlash.

  • odd all around (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:24AM (#38342396)

    While the North's reaction sounds predictably paranoid, the article seems to hint that some sort of propaganda is the purpose of the tree, as evidenced by whether it's lit or not being correlated with thawing versus tension of relations. I'm not sure how effective it'd be at spreading a Christian message specifically, but maybe it's intended to spread a sort of generic, "look how awesome it is just across the border" message?

    • by DrXym (126579)
      Of course it's propaganda. You don't light up 3 massive "trees" on the border of your sworn enemy without the intent to piss them off, demoralize their population, encourage defections, sow discord, promote religion etc. All the while pretending to be wishing the North a happy christmas. It's for the lulz basically.
    • 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.

  • I don't think I've ever seen such an uplifting tale about christmas lights before. From tacky to beautiful, whoever thought ruffling North Korea was in the cards?

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:29AM (#38342456) Journal
    I know that North Korea is fashionably behind the times, juche and all; but seriously, this is a bit much.

    The idea that Christmas trees are a symbol of Christianity, rather than some freaky pagan stuff, stolen for a while by Christians, and now firmly entrenched as a coniferous altar of Mammon for youth of all ages and faiths, is patently absurd.

    Now, it is unlikely that pro-consumerist psychological warfare will be any more popular with our fabulously haired friend; but he needn't worry about the spread of any but the worldliest of indulgences...
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:51AM (#38342704) Homepage Journal

      freaky pagan stuff, stolen for a while by Christians, and now firmly entrenched as a coniferous altar of Mammon for youth of all ages and faiths

      I think you hit the nail square on the head. Being a communist county, the mammon-worship is probably what they're most upset about, far more than the Christianity when they're athiests. Why should an athiest fear a god? It makes no sense. It does make sense that a communist country would fear commerce.

    • and now firmly entrenched as a coniferous altar of Mammon for youth of all ages and faiths, is patently absurd.

      Not everyone celebrates it the same way, but thats not really the point. The tree itself IS a christian symbol [wikipedia.org], and regardless of whether you agree with THAT historical data it represents a custom in christian societies. North Korea wants nothing to do with foreign religions, cultures, or traditions, which is why they are reacting like this.

  • by scottbomb (1290580) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:30AM (#38342474) Journal

    'Cause they don't HAVE any light when the sun's not shining.

    N Korea at night:
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/dprk-dark.htm [globalsecurity.org]

  • Wimpy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:32AM (#38342488)

    Thats pretty wimpy psychological warfare, as decorating pine trees in the living room and shopping and fighting people on black friday and singing about red nosed reindeer is hard core capitalist worship, its not christian at all. I don't even know how you visually "do" christian christmas worship other than something like a 200 foot tall "nativity scene" which unfortunately makes no sense to someone not already versed in christian theology (my son, when he was very little, called it "the farmers", too little to know any better, yet +1 insightful as it was, after all, in a barn scene...)

    Now real christian psychological warfare would be a larger than life Easter scene of the last supper with the table unbiblically piled with tons and tons of yummy food... most of the NK either are currently starving or recently were starving so a big food display is going to rile them all up to no end. Maybe they do that? Waving a bunch of food in front of a starving man with a gun is probably unwise, maybe its going too far?

  • I thought it was about booze, presents, parties, shopping and kitchy pictures of snowmen and santa?
    • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:07AM (#38342898) Journal
      Christmas has been a religious holiday since the 4th century. The precise date of the event it celebrates was (and is) unknown, and several theories about why December 25th was selected exist, including, but not limited to, attempting to offset the Roman solstice celebrations that were occurring at around the same time of year. Even so, however, Christmas is definitely a religious holiday, even if the date itself does not have any historical significance tied to the event it celebrates, and its celebration as a religious festival far predates any of what you've described above.
      • and its celebration as a religious festival far predates any of what you've described above.

        No, as you stated, Christians assigned their birthday celebration near the solstice so they could co-opt the Roman Saturnalia festivities, which already involved booze, parties, presents and shopping.

        The Christian's strategy was generally successful, but they certainly shouldn't be surprised when it backfires because people continue their partying around the solstice for the same reasons they always have. If Christians really don't like it, they should move the birthday again to a more somber date.

  • by na1led (1030470) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:33AM (#38342506)
    I was stationed near the DMZ when I was in the ARMY. It's a very dangerous and volatile place just waiting to explode! The North Koreans are crazy; you never know what they will do. If a war breaks out between North and South, it will be the bloodiest and worse catastrophe in human history!
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:34AM (#38342526) Homepage Journal

    Finally shrug off that horrible regime and look back at history, they're going to be ultra, mega pissed off.

    Dear leaders, my arse.

    • by AdamJS (2466928)

      The only people with a (more or less) guaranteed meal a day are the military, and the ones in charge of that are the most well-off in that entire country in terms of necessities and power.

      There will be no real change until all foreign countries stop giving them any form of aid, and they run out of food for their military and can't stretch it further with propaganda (i.e. troops start dying en mass from starvation).

      • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:24AM (#38343052)

        With a highly unpredictable regime, I'm not sure "try to starve their army to death" is the right approach. Sad and selfish as it is to say, the North Korean people suffering may be the lesser of two evils in this circumstance.

        Likewise, one thing that the North Korean regime has been exceptionally good at is deflecting blame. A wholly disconcerting number of the North Korean people really do believe that their suffering is because of the United States and a puppet South Korea. Furthering that suffering may well generate the anger you would be hoping to generate, but there is no guarantee that it is directed at the people it should be directed to.

        Honestly, just waiting the North out is probably the best approach. I think Kim Jong-Il is regarded as pretty damn psychopathic, and I don't mean that short of its literal sense. There is simply no telling what he will do. He is also 70 years old. Short of him deciding to go out in a big bang, the amount of harm he can do, personally, is coming to a close. His children are western-educated. This is by no means a guarantee that they will be any better, but it is at least an indication that they understand the depth of the lie they are living in North Korea and has to offer at least some hope that, at bare minimum, they will be more reasonable people to deal with.

        If not, once more about them and their ruling style and personalities are known, other measures can be considered. Until then, the status quo is good enough I'm afraid.

      • NK has a lot of personal support from Japan, lots of people there admire the "self-reliance" of the NK doctrine and donate large sums of money to the regime.

        Revolution needs a seed and that seed can be bred out of a population. See former USSR countries where people embrace the free market by patiently waiting for the state to sort it out. Nobody who has not been in a concentration camp or decades in prison can possible truly comprehend what it must be like in that hell hole. Even reports from East Germany

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      I actually hope that North Korea is stupid enough to attempt an invasion of South Korea.

      We can't really excuse going in there and "liberating" North Korea from what is one of the most oppressive dictatorships in the world. If they attack one of our major allies, however, they will get (at most) a couple of miles into South Korean territory before the US shows up and wrecks their shit. Then, of course, we'd go into the country and dismantle their entire military (one way or another). From there we'd probably

      • by jayspec462 (609781) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:30AM (#38343128) Homepage

        Oh, God, no.

        Yes, I want the North Korean government to get its well-deserved comeuppance as much as the next guy, but take a look at Seoul on Google Earth. Now drag northwards until you come to the North Korean border. Not very far, is it? Forget fancy missiles, it's within artillery range. It won't matter that they get "(at most) a couple of miles into South Korean territory." By the time they've done so, one of Asia's financial and industrial capitals will lie in ruins. The fact that the already mostly empty shell of Pyongyang will be razed to the ground shortly thereafter is cold comfort.

  • Well this is a first, we should mark it. This is the first glimmer of hope from that Regieme. The first time they have been worried about an enemy which really is insidious and they have every reason to keep out of their culture at all costs.... Christmas.

    That ruiner of December, that event so horrible, that it can only be seen by the shear number of songs that are made to declare it the best time of the year. Summer needs no accolades. Nobody has to tell you "Isn't spring wonderful". A tradition which begi

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:37AM (#38342570)

    I have an easy solution. Just put up a giant menorah instead. Then you won't be spreading a Christian message.

  • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:38AM (#38342580) Journal

    It's a country in the grip of a deified leader cult. They worship their tyrant and his father in a manner that would have made L. Ron Hubbard or Jim Jones jealous.

    -jcr

    • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Monday December 12, 2011 @01:19PM (#38344502) Homepage

      It's a country in the grip of a deified leader cult. They worship their tyrant and his father in a manner that would have made L. Ron Hubbard or Jim Jones jealous.

      -jcr

      Since I can't mod you up - This is why I take some offense at the term "secular state" in the summary. First, it's a very religious state where the deity happens to be the creepy "leader" of the country and his equally creepy father. Second, ignoring that reality for a minute and assuming "secular state" really means "doesn't officially acknowledge a creator", America is technically a "secular state". But in America, you can convert to the religion of your choice without worrying that you and your entire family will be thrown into a forced labor camp where you will die.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 12, 2011 @10:39AM (#38342588) Journal
    Seriously, put the tree back up there.
  • Every year I read one or more stories about how some dumbwit in some town is offended by any and/or everything the town does at this time of year. Lights, decorations, a blowup Santa, Star Wars parade... someone gets offended. Though this year at least one town told the person to gently sod off.

    • by Thud457 (234763)
      I could support a phalanx formation of stormtroopers wearing santa hats in the "holiday parade". But if you try to slip lord Vader in as Santa, I'm calling the ACLU.
  • As someone else already pointed out, DMZ is an extremely volatile place. This is not the first time when a tree is a source of tension. See the "axe murder incident": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axe_murder_incident [wikipedia.org]

  • To bad a Christmas Tree has absolutely nothing to do with any Christian message (beyond a vague "evergreen-eternal life" connection). The standard Christian message would be best represented (if you only get one image) of a dual image with an old-testament sheep sacrifice beside a crucifix. If you're going for a specifically Christmas message, then a nativity scene. A couple of my atheist friends have Christmas trees up. Trees and lights are fairly secular.
  • by wisebabo (638845) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:16AM (#38342986) Journal

    I'm afraid that S. Korea (and the rest of the world) is between a rock and a hard place on how to del with this despot. I mean forget about the small chance of war between the Koreas; a conflict that while producing a very large number of civilian casualties would be over in a week or two with the modern S. Korea army aided by the U.S. quickly recovering from the initial bombardment and then demolishing the N. Korean army.

    No I'm talking about the millions who for two generations have led short stunted lives due to starvation and extreme poverty. They have been deprived of any contact with the outside world and have been controlled to an extent that makes 1984 seem like a liberal's paradise. It's really chilling to watch a documentary such as the one made when western doctors went in to provide free critical surgeries to the populace only to see the ones who lives they've saved turn around and condemn their saviors.

    One of the main reasons why I do not invest in China is because of their unbending support of N. Korea. Better (they think) to let millions of Koreans die than to let the Americans have an ally abutting them on their northern border. The other reasons include Tibet, Myanmar, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran and basically all the non-democratic regimes in Africa who they prop up. I fully realize that the West is fully capable of rank hypocrisy but China doesn't even make a pretense of advancing the human condition.

    I don't know what to do more than anyone else. Let this horrendous half-century holocaust continue or wage a war which would result on hundreds of thousands of casualties. I think the only way to decide on a firm course of action would be for S. Korea to have a national referendum as to whether or not to save the people who are literally their brothers. This makes planning surprise attack rather difficult though.

    (Is "funnier" a legitimate word or not? I'm afraid I'm not a decider).

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:18AM (#38343004)

    It's amazing how even the most oppressive dictator is afraid of a simple Christmas tree.

  • by Sez Zero (586611) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:21AM (#38343024) Journal
    Christmas just barfed all over my neighbor's front yard. I run my house like a dictator. Too bad I don't have a proto-nuclear arsenal to threaten them with.
  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:35AM (#38343210)
    I tried that with my neighbors too, and it didn't work.
    If it helps North Korea, I can point you to a store that has pretty good curtains!

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