Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event this Sunday marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas.
American feminist Gloria Steinem is among 30 activists traveling from Beijing through North Korea to cross the demilitarized zone into South Korea.
"If you consider that the Berlin Wall has fallen, that the Soviet Union is in a different situation, that apartheid is no more, that this is the last remaining symbol of the Cold War, of World War II and the Cold War, I mean [former U.S. President] Ronald Reagan stood outside the Berlin Wall and said 'Take down this wall.' We are saying 'take down this isolation,'" said Steinem.
March organizers say they want to revive hopes for reconciliation among Koreans. They will also push for a formal peace accord. The two countries never signed one at the end of the three-year war in 1953.
"For us the significance of crossing the DMZ at Panmunjom is that we, as women from 15 different countries, can serve as a bridge between the two sides at the physical site where the Korean war ended in a stalemate, and thus renew hope that this long-standing division can be overcome," said Christine Ahn, international coordinator for the march.
The women arrived in North Korea on Tuesday. They plan a peace symposium in Pyongyang and another one in Seoul after crossing the de-militarized zone into South Korea. With them is Liberian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee.
"I believe that this is the first step in the right direction, firmly knowing that once women step out for peace, peace is bound to happen," said Gbowee.
The group has been criticized for dealing with the North Korean government. However, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he wants to visit a joint Korean industrial complex located north of the demilitarized zone, but North Korea won't allow it.