“We Need to End This War” Women Peace Marchers Planning to Cross the DMZ
On Friday April 24 women planning to cross the DMZ as part of their peace march from North Korea to South Korea held a press conference near the UN. They updated journalists on the developments following their prior press conference in March at the UN. (1)
In the interim period one of the co-organizers of the peace effort, Christine Ahn, was invited to Pyongyang to discuss the event and the program. After she returned from her trip she received a confirmation about the trip from the DPRK Mission to the United Nations. In the communication, North Korea wrote(2):
“Since this is an international peace event timed in this special year marking 70th anniversary of liberation and simultaneous division of our beloved country and nation, we hope that the event will be a specially significant contribution to terminating the current status of war, replacing armistice with peace agreement, and thereby achieving permanent peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.”
The communication to Ahn said that,”Pyongyang expressed its full support to the International Women’s Peace Walk.”
Several committees in North Korea were listed as planning to aid the peace walk when it goes to Pyongyang. Describing the plans of these committees, the communication stated, “The Korean Committee for Solidarity with World Peoples, the Democratic Union of Korea, the Commitee for Overseas Compatriots of Korea and other related organizations will render all necessary assistance to the event for its success.”
At the April 24 press conference, Suzy Kim, also one of the co-organizers for the peace march, described the nature of the communications from both North Korea and South Korea which indicated that both would be supporting the planned march. The group had received notification from South Korean officials that they would give their approval after the North Korean government had submitted the invitation to the peace group to the UN Command along with any necessary paper work for the Command to be able to approve the planned walk.
Answering a question about the response of women in South Korea to the proposed march, the organizers of the peace march explained that the plan has been welcomed. Just one day earlier, on April 23, there was a press conference held by women’s groups in South Korea where they expressed their support for the peace march whether or not it receives the necessary approval from the two governments. (3)
Cora Weiss, an NGO representative to the UN and president of The Hague Appeal for Peace, described how Security Council Resolution 1325 supported by all members of the UN Security Council and its subsequent followup resolutions provided that women should be at every peace negotiation and should participate in all levels of discussion.
Weiss was one of the NGO representatives working on writing and gathering support for the resolution. Such efforts contributed to the Security Council passing Resolution 1325.
Gloria Steinem, noted author and activist, stressed to journalists the importance of maintaining the memory of past struggles and achievements of the peace movement. Loss of such memory is the root of oppression, she emphasized. She recounted how she remembered the Korean War and its tragic effect on people she knew at the time. Also Steinem described how on a previous trip to South Korea she visited the DMZ and saw the railroad station built to connect the two Koreas. The railroad station, however, stands empty as there is little use of it given the hostile relations that dominate the situation since the station was built.
The fourth speaker at the press conference was Professor Hyun-Kyung Chung who is a professor at the Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan. Professor Chung spoke about the hardship experienced by the people of Korea. “WWII has not ended for them as they remain divided as a result of the war,” she explained. “We need to end this war,” said Chung, “WWII needs to be over, divided families need to meet.”
Professor Chung reminded journalists that, “Given the 5000 year history of Korea, the 70 year separation cannot make us different people.”
We have been preparing for the walk for 70 years, she noted, thanking those who came to the press conference for their support. Professor Chung displayed a patchwork quilt that women were contributing to as a symbol of their desire for peace.
Professor Chung also described the overwhelming support for the peace walk being offered by women in South Korea.
Several months ago, the Asia Society sponsored a program with Governor Richardson and former US ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg describing the need for an out-of-the-box effort to encourage negotiations between the Koreas and to support the campaign for a peace treaty to end the Korean War.(4)
The efforts of the women to hold a peace march is an important example of such an initiative and the support from people in both North and South Korea demonstrates the need for this effort to be encouraged by both Korean governments and by the US government which is in charge of the DMZ via what is known as the UN Command.(5)
By Ronda Hauben
1) Ronda Hauben, “Women Plan Walk Across the DMZ to Support Peace and Korean Unification”, blogs.taz.de/netizenblog, March 31, 2015
2) Christine Ahn, “Why Gloria Steinem, Other Women and I Plan to March to the World’s Most Fortified Border”,
Christine Ahn, Huffington Post/Global Post, April 8, 2015
3)”Women leaders to cross DMZ for peace on the Korean peninsula
April 24, 2015″, Hankyoreh, April 24, 2016.
4) See “DPRK: Out of the Box Diplomacy,” The Amateur Computerist, Vol 25, No 1, Spring 2015.
5) Ronda Hauben, “United Nations Command As Camouflage: On the Role of the UN in the Unending Korean War “, Netizen Journalism and the New News, blogs.taz.de/netizenblog, Aug 31, 2013
A related article from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-ahn/gloria-steinem-north-korea-march_b_7018902.html
Why Gloria Steinem, Other Women and I Plan to March to the World’s Most Fortified Border
On the 70th anniversary of Korea’s tragic division by the United States and the former Soviet Union, 30 women peacemakers will walk in support of the peaceful reunification of Korea. Our delegation includes two Nobel Peace laureates, Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee, and authors, such as Gloria Steinem, artists, retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright, academics, humanitarian aid workers, faith leaders, mothers and grandmothers from a dozen countries, including several nations that fought in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Why are we walking? We are walking to invite all concerned to imagine a new chapter in Korean history, one marked by dialogue, understanding and — ultimately — forgiveness. We are walking to help unite Korean families tragically separated by an artificial, man-made division. We are walking to lessen military tensions on the Korean peninsula, which have ramifications for peace and security throughout the world. We are walking to urge our leaders to redirect funds devoted to armaments toward improving people’s welfare and protecting the environment.
We are walking to end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a permanent peace treaty. And we’re walking to ensure that women are involved at all levels of the peace-building process, including at the peacemaking table when that historic treaty is negotiated and finally signed. We see this as a fitting tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women and the 15th anniversary of U.N. Security Council resolution 1325, which we celebrate this year.
Our plan is to meet with North Korean women in Pyongyang for an international peace symposium and to walk with them to the DMZ. On May 24, International Women’s Day for Disarmament, we hope to cross the two-mile wide Demilitarized Zone and to be greeted by South Korean women. Together, we will walk for peace and hold a second international peace symposium in Seoul.
We realize that crossing the most militarized border in the world is no simple task. We are seeking approval from both Korean governments and the U.N. Command, which has jurisdiction over the DMZ. We received a letter of intent last year from Pyongyang supporting our event with a stern caveat: if conditions are ripe.
Given this tense moment, with U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises underway, they may not be. Our contact at the U.N. mission, however, conveyed to us that they “understand the significance of this occasion and the important peacemaking role that women have played throughout history.”
In mid-March, I received word that Pyongyang wanted me to come to discuss the event and program. After I returned from Pyongyang, I received the following confirmation from the DPRK mission to the United Nations:
This is to inform you that Pyongyang expressed its full support to the International Women’s Peace Walk. The Korean Committee for Solidarity With World Peoples, the Democratic Women’s Union of Korea, the Committee for Overseas Compatriots of Korea and other related organizations will render all necessary assistances to the event for its success. Since this is an international peace event timed in this special year marking 70th anniversary of liberation and simultaneous division of our beloved country and nation, we hope that the event will be a specially significant contribution to terminating the current status of war, replacing armistice with peace agreement, and thereby achieving permanent peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.
On Christmas Eve of last year, we received the best gift we could have imagined through our adviser, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, when we were informed by the U.N. Command that, upon receiving confirmation from the Republic of Korea, they would be prepared to facilitate our DMZ crossing.
We hope to have favorable news soon from the South Korean government. If need be, we are prepared to make alternate plans to facilitate women walking for peace in Korea in this important year without crossing the DMZ. We remain hopeful, however, because in the past two years, two previous delegations — five New Zealanders by motorbike and 32 Korean Russians by motorcade — crossed the DMZ with both President Park’s and Chairman Kim’s blessing.
As Gloria Steinem says of the DMZ, “there is no other strip of land more symbolic of long-term division.” We hope to cross the DMZ to renew Korean people’s hope that the DMZ can and must be crossed to reunify families and to begin to heal the divided peninsula.
Christine Ahn is Co-founder Women De-Militarize the Zone & Korea Policy Institute