Female Peace Activists cross inter-Korean border for peace on peninsula
May 24, Seoul: A group of foreign women activists crossed the heavily fortified inter-Korean border from North Korea on Sunday, voicing hope that their move could help bring lasting peace to a divided peninsula, Yanhap news agency reported.
About 30 female activists from around the World, including U.S. activist Gloria Steinem and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, marched down from the North to the South across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to mark the International Women’s Day for Disarmament.
New York Times, reported that It was rare for the two rival Korean governments to agree to allow a group of peace activists to pass through the border area, but some of the symbolism the activists had hoped to generate with their Women Cross DMZ campaign was lost when South Korea denied them permission to walk through Panmunjom, a border village where a truce was signed in 1953 to halt, but not formally end, the conflict, leaving the divided Korea in a technical state of war.
Instead, the women, who traveled from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, were detoured to a checkpoint southwest of Panmunjom. There, border crossing is a daily event, with convoys of South Korean trucks traveling to and from a joint industrial park in the North Korean town of Kaesong. The women, carrying banners for peace, were again barred from walking across the border, and had to cross by bus.
The DMZ, which bisects the Korean Peninsula, is a 259-kilometer-long and 4-kilometer-wide strip of rugged no-man’s land stretching from coast to coast, serving as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Steinem told a press conference in South Korea, “We are feeling very positive (about) what we’ve accomplished … which is a trip for peace, for reconciliation and for human rights and a trip to which both governments agreed”.
According ABC News, Gbowee, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her role in leading a Liberian women’s movement that helped bring an end to her country’s brutal civil war.
“We’ve come here to help end war. I think that it is the first step in a right direction,” she said the activists feel “privileged” to be able to come across the DMZ, but they also feel sad as there are so many families separated by the Korean War.
The activists said that the purpose of the DMZ crossing is to express hope that Korean families separated by the Korean War will be united someday and military tensions between the two sides can be reduced.
But some critics claimed that the event would not help resolve North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and human rights violation.
The peace march also met with criticism here as anti-Pyongyang activists claimed that the female activists have pro-Pyongyang stances, citing a report by the North’s media. A group of conservative activists held a rally in front of Imjingak, a park near the border to protest against them.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan‘s 1910-45 colonial rule and an inter-Korean division.
The activists held a peace march in the South on Sunday and will return to their home countries on Tuesday. The Oslo Times