An international group of women activists, including Gloria Steinem and two Nobel Peace laureates, on Sunday crossed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in a call for global peace and reconciliation.
“We are walking for a peaceful world, we are walking for a peaceful world,” the activistssang as they crossed one section of the heavily fortified two-mile-wide zone.
WomenCrossDMZ hit a brief roadblock when the activists were denied an attempt to walk across the final stretch, but they were able to make the crossing by bus.
“Not only have we received the blessing for our historic crossing, we’ve gotten both Korean governments to communicate. That is a success,” one of the Nobel Peace laureates, Leymah Gbowee, who was recognized in 2011 for her role in Liberian peace movement, told CBS News.
The event was formed to “call for an end to the Korean War and for a new beginning for a reunified Korea,” the organizers state on their website. They continue:
2015 marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division into two separate states by Cold War powers, which precipitated the 1950-53 Korean War. After nearly 4 million people were killed, mostly Korean civilians, fighting was halted when North Korea, China, and the United States representing the UN Command signed a ceasefire agreement. They promised within three months to sign a peace treaty; over 60 years later, we’re still waiting.
Sunday’s event also includes forums in Pyongyang and Seoul for Korean women to share their experiences of being split apart from their families and for the activists to discuss mobilizing women for an end to the conflict.
Some South Korean protesters were critical of the march, saying the activists did not do enough to point out human rights abuses carried out by the North Korean government, but WomenCrossDMZ said the action had a different focus.
“This is about human relationships, this is about us seeing our common humanity in each other,” Mairead Maguire, who received the Nobel in 1976 for her work in ending the conflict in Northern Ireland, said at a press conference on the southern side of the inter-Korean border.
“We are trying to make person-by-person connections so that there is understanding and accuracy,” Steinem said at the press conference. “We feel very celebratory and positive that we have created a voyage across the DMZ in peace and reconciliation that was said to be impossible.”