North Korea has decided to support a proposed walk across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas by prominent women, including US feminist Gloria Steinem, and organizers say they hope South Korea will give its approval as well.
Co-organizer Christine Ahn told reporters that North Korea gave permission this week after she visited Pyongyang. The walk proposed for May 24 is a call for the reunification of the two countries.
The DMZ is the world’s most fortified border, with the two Koreas still technically at war. The walk would mark the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula.
The walk would include two Nobel Peace laureates, and Ahn says North Korean women will walk with the group from Pyongyang to the DMZ.
Organizers of the effort, called WomenCrossDMZ.org, have said they hope for 30 women to cross from North Korea to South Korea on May 24, which is International Women’s Day for Disarmament.
The DMZ is one of the most highly charged places in the world. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers face off across the heavily mined zone that separates South Korea from North Korea.
“It’s hard to imagine any more physical symbol of the insanity of dividing human beings,” Steinem said during last month’s announcement of the walk.
Ahn said she had meetings in Pyongyang in the past week with officials from the country’s Overseas Korean Committee and Democratic Women’s Union. She said she received support to hold a symposium in North Korea on women and peacebuilding as well.
“I wish I knew how the ultimate decision was made, but at this point I’m just relieved that at least we have Pyongyang’s cooperation and support,” Ahn said in an e-mail.
A North Korean diplomat to the UN, Kim Song, last month told reporters the proposal was being discussed in his capital.
Ahn and the other participants are also calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, as well as US President Barack Obama and the leaders of North and South Korea to take the necessary actions to finally end the Korean War with a peace treaty.
The women have said they take heart from successful crossings of the DMZ by five New Zealanders with motorbikes in 2013 and by 32 Korean Russians by motorcade last year.
This new attempt includes Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, who worked to end those long-running conflicts.
Ahn said the women are being advised by former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson, and that the UN Command at the DMZ has said they would be willing to facilitate their crossing once South Korea’s government gives its approval.
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