Women’s peace walk crosses DMZ

Thirty women peace activists from 15 countries crossed the demilitarized zone separating north and south Korea on May 24. They called for an official end to the Korean War, the signing of a peace treaty and the reunification of Korea.

On May 19, Women Cross DMZ was warmly greeted in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where they held a symposium with north Korean women’s organizations and then visited a hospital, kindergarten and other facilities. They also visited the birthplace of Kim Il Sung, leader of the Korean Revolution, and joined an international women’s march for reunification and peace on May 23. A roadside sign read, “Let us reunify the divided country as soon as possible!”

The delegation had planned to walk across the DMZ into south Korea on May 24, the International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. They started their walk, singing and carrying peace banners, together with north Korean women. However, the south Korean regime barred them from walking across the DMZ and passing through Panmunjom, where the 1953 armistice had been signed ending combat in the Korean War.

South Korea instead sent a bus that ferried the delegation to a customs area connected to Kaesong Industrial Zone. South Korean police and army cars flanked the bus, joined by U.N. Joint Command officials outside the demarcation line.

They were then greeted by hundreds of south Korean women, who joined them in walking the one and a half miles to Imjingak Nuri Peace Park in Paju for a welcoming ceremony. Some 1,000 people sang, “Our Wish Is Unification.” (Hankyoreh, May 25)

The delegation promoted the need for a peace treaty, not just an armistice, to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War.

U.S. divided Korea

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S. military occupation of southern Korea at the end of World War II, which led to the division of the country. U.S. troops have remained there ever since. Some 4 million Koreans died in the 1950-53 war, in which the U.S. sent almost 6 million troops to battle the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north. The war ended in a stalemate — the first time that U.S. imperialism had failed to win a military victory.

Since the war’s end, hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the north and south, as well as U.S. troops, have faced each other across the DMZ. It is therefore not surprising that the peace delegation was heavily criticized by the U.S. corporate media, officials and reactionaries, as well as south Korean conservatives in and out of government.

However, the activists assert that their trip was a “triumph” in promoting peace and reunification. The delegation included Gloria Steinem from the U.S. and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Maguire from northern Ireland and Leymah Gbowee from Liberia. Christine Ahn was the principal organizer of the peace walk.