Gloria Steinem and women activists from 15 countries urged North and South Korea to put away animosity and reconcile for peace after they crossed the demilitarized zone that divides two nations officially still at war after six decades of truce.
Stymied in their hope of walking through Panmunjom, the village where the 1954 ceasefire was negotiated, the 30 members of WomenCrossDMZ transited the 4-kilometer-wide DMZ by bus on Sunday, entering South Korea near the jointly run Gaeseong industrial complex.
“We are feeling very much that the visit accomplished what no one said could be done, which is to be on a trip for peace, for reconciliation, for human rights and a trip to which both governments agreed,” feminist icon Steinem said to reporters in footage broadcast by Yonhap News TV. “We were able to be citizen diplomats, to have no official function whatsoever.”
The activists, including Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee, arrived in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang on May 19 and met with women there to discuss the impact of war on the lives of women and children, according to the website of the group. A similar conference with South Korean women will take place tomorrow.
South Korea banned the planned crossing at Panmunjom on security grounds. The event took place days after North Korea canceled its invitation for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit the Gaeseong factory complex.