Peace activists and Gloria Steinem ready to cross Korea DMZ 

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May 23,Seoul: An unusual international peace march by feminists who will trek from North to South Korea appears set to go Sunday after organizers agreed they would not cross the border at Panmunjom village in the demilitarized zone.

The event is also taking place amid mounting controversy over the political statements of some of its participants and disagreements within the group. Thirty activists including Gloria Steinem, an iconic figure in the women’s rights movement in the United states, and two Nobel laureates say they want to kindle peace between the Koreas, which are technically still at war. An unusual international peace march by feminists who will trek from North to South Korea appears set to go Sunday after organizers agreed they would not cross the border at Panmunjom village in the demilitarized zone.The event is also taking place amid mounting controversy over the political statements of some of its participants and disagreements within the group.

Thirty activists including Gloria Steinem, an iconic figure in the women’s rights movement in the United states, and two Nobel laureates say they want to kindle peace between the Koreas, which are technically still at war. Today, after denouncing Seoul’s stance, the organizers agreed to cross near Kaesong, a city six miles north of the border. The route along a disused railway line sees regular cross-border traffic because of a jointly-run industrial complex that at one time was a potent symbol of reconciliation.

“We are walking for peace and reunification of Korea, dialogue, empathy, forgiveness,” tweeted participant Coleen Baik on Friday. The group has largely avoided contact with the media since traveling from Beijing to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, which has patchy telecommunications.Controversy erupted today after several participants were quoted in North Korean state media praising the nation’s founder Kim Il-sung.

The government mouthpiece Rodong Simun reported Thursday that Mairead Maguire, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland, was “touched” to learn about Mr. Kim’s “revolutionary life” on a visit to his birthplace near Pyongyang. The same article quoted Korean American activist Christine Ahn, who has been prominent in the forming of the group, as saying the senior Kim had committed his life to the freedom and liberation of the North Korean people.

Human rights groups say the activists are whitewashing North Korea’s abuses of its people, including a gulag of work and prison camps documented last year by a UN commission.“It would certainly be a worthy effort if Ms. Steinem or any other member of the group raised some of the hard human rights issues affecting North Korean women,” says Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. “Then, certainly, the effort would be worthwhile. As far as I know, that hasn’t happened yet and I don’t think this is the intention of the march.”

Mr. Scarlatoiu is concerned that the march organizers are “shifting blame” for inter-Korean problems to the US and South Korea. He points to a decision this week to cancel a visit to Kaesong by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, as evidence of insincerity by Pyongyang.

The Oslo Times

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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