Turn off the crosses but light the trees

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Turn off the crosses but light the trees

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As the end of the year approaches, I cannot believe that 2011 is almost over. I asked people around me how they feel about this year, and they agree that this year passed by so quickly. As the market is so sluggish and the economy is in a slump, not many people are celebrating the holiday season in an extravagant fashion. Around this time every year, downtown Seoul is usually crowded with people, but traffic is rather light on the way back home after work.

This year, the apartment complex I live in did not put up any decorations. In the past, the buildings were decorated with colorful light bulbs in the shape of hearts and flowers, but the community decided to save energy by leaving out the decorations. I noticed that my apartment is not the only one being budget conscious. Apartment complexes in the neighborhood also decided against holiday decorations.

However, churches are exceptions. The churches have adorned their steeples with colorful blinking light bulbs. At night, they are flashing in various colors. As I looked down from my balcony, the Christmas lights looked like neon signs of night clubs. The people living in the building next to the church may be disturbed when they sleep. Without the decoration of churches, the holiday season may be even plainer, but we need to consider visual pollution.

In Korea, crosses are usually associated with the color red. At night, churches turn their red lights on. While the protestant church of Korea originates from Christian churches in the United States, Americans do not use red crosses. Churches usually have simple, white crosses. Because there are so many churches in Korea, they may want to attract attention. But it is questionable if it is necessary to waste precious energy on highlighting the cross.

This year, Christmas towers have been installed on the front line. The government accepted demands from Christian organizations and allowed the installation of large Christmas tree-shaped towers in three locations, Aegi Peak, the Peace Observatory and the Unification Observatory. The 30-meter-tall towers adorned with colorful light bulbs can be seen from North Korea with the naked eye. The tower in Aegi Peak was taken down in 2004 as agreed by Seoul and Pyongyang, but it was turned on again last year, after the attack on the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island.

North Korea is resisting firmly. Pyongyang called the Christmas trees a psychological tactic to provoke the North and threatened it may result in unexpected consequences. The Korean forces are building walls around the towers to protect against emergencies. There is concern that North Korea may take action when the trees are lit up on December 23.

The electricity supply in the winter season is facing a possible contingency as two nuclear reactors are out of order. People are concerned about a blackout. A few Christmas trees may not make much difference. It may be more important to shed the light of hope on the North Korean residents. However, churches may want to consider turning off the red lights on crosses.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Bae Myung-bok
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