Female Korean Activists, With An Assist From Gloria Steinem, Cross the DMZ For Peace In Korea
We think of The Korean War as something historical; a war that ended in the 1950s. However, the end of that war was merely a cease-fire that was supposed to be followed up by an actual peace treaty. Seventy years later, Koreans are still waiting on that treaty. So a group of female peace activists, collectively known as WomenCrossDMZ, led by Christine Ahn, founder of Women De-Militarize the Zone, marked the 70th Anniversary year of Korea’s division into North and South by crossing the DMZ between North to South in peace today. The group was joined by feminist activist, Gloria Steinem, and Nobel Peace laureates, Leymah Gbowee and Mairead Maguire.
The original plan was to walk across the DMZ through Panmunjom, the place where the cease-fire was signed in 1953. But as the women needed the permission and cooperation of both North and South Korea to make the crossing – the South objected to the location and both sides objected to the women walking – they changed the plan and crossed the border on the Western side in a bus. However, North Korea did allow the North Korean activists to board the bus in North Korea and go over to the other side, where they were greeted by their South Korean sisters.
Not everyone was thrilled or impressed with the symbolic gesture. Many were suspicious that the North Korean women were hand-picked by their regime, and that they were praising North Korea’s founding president, Kim Il-sung while in Pyongyang (praising North Korea, or promoting its philosophies is illegal in South Korea). Others remarked on the fact that no one was talking about the human rights abuses going on in North Korea.
However, the gesture was focused on the notion of peace between the two halves of this country. It was about starting a dialogue around the idea of a peace treaty again. 70 years is a long time to wait, and there are families who’ve been split apart for that long. As Steinem discusses in the above video, it is generally the women of any nation at war that get the ball rolling on the road to peace – as it’s generally the women who are hit by the consequences of war the hardest. Here’s hoping these inspiring women will continue to inspire long after this historic crossing today, and continue their work to make real change on the Korean Peninsula.
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