North and South Korea Conflict: Feminist Activists Cross Demilitarized Zone, Call for Peace Treaty Between North and South Korea
American feminist leader Gloria Steinem, two Nobel Peace laureates and two dozen other activists from 15 countries on Sunday used a bus to cross the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea in what they declared to be a landmark event, The Associated Press reported.
The women had been denied an attempt to walk across the heavily fortified demarcation line, but North Korean authorities permitted a South Korean bus to cross the border and pick the group up on the North side to then transport them back to the South, the newswire detailed.
"We were able to be citizen diplomats," the 81-year-old claimed. "We are feeling very, very positive. We have received an enormous amount of support," she added.
The author serves as honorary co-chair of the Woman Cross DMZ group, which calls for a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, Reuters explained. North and South Korea are still technically at war, given that the conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty.
Mairead Maguire, a peace activist and Nobel Laureate from Northern Ireland, explained the reasoning behind Sunday's march at a press conference, the newswire noted.
"This is about human relationships, this is about us seeing our common humanity in each other," Maguire said.
Nevertheless, the Woman Cross DMZ event received some backlash in South Korea, where critics said the North's totalitarian regime might use the march for propaganda purposes, Atlanta-based radio station WSB noted. The activists also failed to point to the grisly human-rights abuses of dictator Kim Jong Un's regime, they added.
On Monday in the South Korean capital of Seoul, Steinem told an audience about her experience of spending several days in North Korea prior to the march, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
"I feel as if I have just come from visiting a kind, hard-working and loving family who are doing their best to survive under a controlling, totalitarian head of household," the feminist noted.
Maguire, for her part, said she was appealing to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama, among others, to help broker a definitive peace treaty between the two Koreas.
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