By John Lee
On March 11, leading women peacemakers from around the world met at the 59th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to announce plans for a peace walk to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Their hope is to unite the women from the war-torn countries and call for an end to the 60 years of violence.
The creation of the International Peacemakers’ Walk for Peace was headed by “Women De-Militarize the Zone,” an organization created by peace activist Christine Ahn. She and 29 other international women peacemakers joined the march to the DMZ, where the participants then joined hands as a gesture of peace and reconciliation.
“We are walking to unite Korean families tragically separated by an artificial, man-made division, and to re-direct government investment away from the military towards improving the welfare of the people, in particular women, children and the elderly,” Ahn said at the meeting.
In addition to the Walk for Peace, the peacemakers also held conferences in Korea—Pyongyang and Seoul. There, women shared their experiences from the war and propose ways to formally bring an end to the recurring tensions.
Though the movement seems highly symbolic, “Women De-Militarize the Zone” hopes their actions will initiate the actual reunification of the two countries, beginning with a global petition to replace the ceasefire with a permanent peace treaty.
“If this division can be healed even briefly by women, it will be inspiring in the way that women brought peace out of war in Northern Ireland or Liberia. In Northern Ireland women crossed the boundary of religion and region, and said, ‘No more,’” author Gloria Steinem said at a peace meeting.
During the tense era of the Cold War, about four years were fought in the peninsula, killing nearly four million until a ceasefire agreement was signed—a supposedly temporary truce meant to maintain relations until a peace treaty was created.
Around 60 years later, after separating 10 million families and subjugating 70 million Koreans under a state of constant tension, the treaty still has yet to be signed.
“The DMZ continues to divide the Korean peninsula with recurring tensions that serve as a sobering reminder of the possibility of renewed war,” Ahn said.
Crossing that 2-mile divide will be a big step towards the long-awaited reunion.