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Women Walk for Peace in the Korean Peninsula

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 12 2015 (IPS) - A group of international women peacemakers announced on Wednesday at the United Nations their intention to walk across the two mile De-Militarized Zone (DMZ), in a call for peace and reunification of Korea.

The walk is planned for May 24th, the International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, depending on the approval of the Korean authorities. Leading organiser Christine Ahn said at the U.N. that women will walk “to imagine a new chapter in Korean history marked by dialogue, understanding and ultimately forgiveness. We are walking to help unite Korean families tragically separated by an artificial man-made division.”

The announcement was made in light of the 59th meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Amongst the 30 walkers, there are two Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee, various authors, academics, humanitarian aid workers and faith leaders.

The Korean people are still waiting for an official peace treaty to reunify the country. However, a cease-fire has been in place since the 1953 signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement which established a de facto border between the two countries.

The group is planning to meet in Pyongyang and walk south, across the DMZ, meeting with southern Korean women in Seoul, where they will hold an international peace symposium.

Ahn said, “We realise that crossing the most militarized border in the world is no simple task. We are seeking approval from both Korean governments and the U.N. We received a letter of intent last year from Pyongyang supporting our event, with a very stern caveat ‘if the conditions are right’. However, given the tense moment right now they may not be.”

American author and Honorary Co-Chair of the international delegation, Gloria Steinem, remarked, “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 in Liberia.”

Even without an official approval, the group is urging leaders to reduce military expenditure and redirect public money towards social welfare and environmental protection.

“We are walking to lessen military tensions on the Korean peninsula which has ramifications for peace insecurity throughout the world (and) ensure that women are involved at all levels of the peacebuilding and peacemaking process,” said Ahn.

Professor Chung Hyun Kyung from the Union Theological Seminary said that nuclear militarisation, and the increasing demonisation on both sides have caused serious social and cultural ruptures between North and South. She noted that is important to recreate an idea of wholeness and democracy across the peninsula.

The activists said that they will soon launch an online petition calling on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, United States and Korean leaders to take the necessary actions to reach a peaceful reunification.

Follow Valentina Ieri on Twitter @Valeieri

Edited by Roger Hamilton-Martin

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