Seventy years after the Korean peninsula was divided into two countries, 30 women peace activists from 15 countries banded together to cross the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Sunday. The group included Gloria Steinem, Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, and Liberian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee.
The historic march, which included two symposia on both sides of the border, was organized by WomenCrossDMZ to call for a formal end to the Korean War. In an unusual move, the governments of both North and South Korea agreed to the march, but not everyone was happy about the movement. Critics have claimed that the North Korean regime will only exploit the march and use it for propaganda, and others believe the march will do little to promote reconciliation.
The peace activists stressed that their intent was to interact with people from both sides of the 38th parallel, to spark discussions about the division, and to promote peace and social justice. Leymah Gbowee said that in many places around the world where women made their voices heard, change didn’t take one day. “We will continue to work for the peace of North Korea reunification,” she said. “We have to resist compromise, we have to insist that peace and social justice is the ultimate, and if we insist that these are very important, not just to our existence but to the existence of our children, then and only then can we turn the battlefields into valleys of peace.”