S. Korea may scrap border Christmas lights plan

SEOUL - South Korea will reconsider a plan to display Christmas lights near the tense border with North Korea following the death of its leader Kim Jong-Il, Seoul's defence minister said Tuesday.

"I will reconsider it because it is not timely in the current situation," Kim Kwan-Jin told a parliamentary session.

The communist North had furiously objected to the displays on three towers, which were to be switched on on Friday, calling it "psychological warfare" by its capitalist neighbour.

South Korean church groups had planned to display the lights from December 23 to January 6 on three tree-shaped steel towers atop military-controlled hills near the border.

The hills are within three kilometres of the frontier and within range of North Korean gunfire. The church groups need official permission for the displays.

The two Koreas in 2004 reached a deal to halt official-level cross-border propaganda and the South stopped its annual Christmas border illuminations, a symbol of prosperity as well as of a religious festival.

Seoul resumed the display last December after a shelling attack by the North on a border island killed four South Koreans the previous month.

North Korea before Kim's death warned of "unexpected consequences" if Seoul displayed Christmas lights this year and vowed unspecified retaliation.

The North has previously accused the South of displaying Christmas lights to spread Christianity among its people and soldiers.

Its constitution provides for religious freedom but the US State Department says this does not exist in practice.