Group gets N. Korea sup­port to walk across DMZ

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY CARA ANNA

North Korea has de­cided to sup­port a pro­posed walk across the de­mil­i­ta­rized zone be­tween the two Koreas by prom­i­nent women in­clud­ing Glo­ria Steinem, and or­ga­niz­ers say they hope South Korea will give its ap­proval as well.

Co-or­ga­nizer Christine Ahn told The As­so­ci­ated Press that North Korea gave per­mis­sion this week af­ter she vis­ited Py­ongyang. The walk pro­posed for May 24 is a call for re­uni­fi­ca­tion of the two coun­tries.

The DMZ is the world’s most for­ti­fied bor­der, with the two Koreas still tech­ni­cally at war. The walk would mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the di­vi­sion of the Korean Penin­sula.

The walk would in­clude two No­bel Peace lau­re­ates, and Ahn says North Korean women will walk with the group from Py­ongyang to the DMZ.

Or­ga­niz­ers of the ef­fort called WomenCrossDMZ.org have said they hope for 30 women to cross from North Korea to South Korea on May 24, which is In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day for Dis­ar­ma­ment.

The DMZ is one of the most highly charged places in the world. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of sol­diers face off across the heav­ily mined zone that sep­a­rates South Korea from closed- off, nu­clear- armed North Korea.

“It’s hard to imag­ine any more phys­i­cal sym­bol of the insanity of di­vid­ing hu­man be­ings,” Steinem said dur­ing last month’s nounce­ment of the walk.

Ahn said she had meet­ings in Py­ongyang in the past week with of­fi­cials from the coun­try’s Over­seas Korean Com­mit­tee and Demo­cratic Women’s Union. She said she re­ceived sup­port to hold a sym­po­sium in North Korea on women and peace­build­ing as well.

“I wish I knew how the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion was made, but at this point I’m just re­lieved that at least we have Py­ongyang’s co­opera-

an- tion and sup­port,” Ahn said in an email.

A North Korean diplo­mat to the U.N., Kim Song, last month told the AP the pro­posal was be­ing dis­cussed in his cap­i­tal.

Ahn and the other par­tic­i­pants also are call­ing on U.N. Sec­re­taryGen­eral Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, as well as Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and the lead­ers of North and South Korea to take the nec­es­sary ac­tions to fi­nally end the Korean War with a peace treaty. The war ended in 1953 with the ar­mistice.

The women would like to cross the DMZ at the vil­lage of Pan­munjom, which strad­dles the bor­der and is the place where troops from North and South come clos­est, just a few yards from each other.

The women have said they take heart from suc­cess­ful cross­ings of the DMZ by five New Zealan­ders with mo­tor­bikes in 2013 and by 32 Korean Rus­sians by mo­tor­cade last year. Both had per­mis­sion from both sides.

This new at­tempt in­cludes No­bel peace lau­re­ates Mairead Maguire of North­ern Ire­land and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, who worked to end those long-run­ning con­flicts.

Ahn has said the women are be­ing ad­vised by for­mer U. N. Am­bas­sador Bill Richard­son, and that the U.N. Com­mand at the DMZ has said they would be will­ing to fa­cil­i­tate their cross­ing once South Korea’s gov­ern­ment gives its ap­proval.

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