News From The Field

A Feminist Path to Peace on the Korean Peninsula

22 September 2019
BY Christine Ahn and Gloria Steinem
PUBLISHED IN Radical Hope Blog Series

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This piece is part of the NoVo Foundation’s Radical Hope Blog Series, a platform for social justice movement leaders from around the world to share learning and insights, hear what’s working and what’s not, build solidarity, and spark opportunities for collaboration. Amid daily headlines of division, this blog series is intended to serve as an active and dynamic beacon of hope, possibility, resistance, and resilience.

Four years ago, we were two of 30 women peace activists from 15 countries who traveled to North Korea and then journeyed across the DMZ to South Korea.

We did this on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division to call for an end to the Korean War, for the reunion of separated families, and for women’s leadership in the peace process. We ourselves physically crossed the DMZ because this highly militarized border is the living reminder of the unresolved Korean War. It represents all the pain, separation, and trauma that this conflict has inflicted on millions of people — not only in Korea, but also around the world.

This lingering state of war is responsible for the continued tension and hostilities between the United States and North Korea. It prevents North and South Korea from mutually beneficial cooperation, and keeps millions of Korean families separated, unable even to communicate with, much less see or embrace each other.

Also, the so-called Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has one of the highest concentrations of landmines on earth, and is used to justify the existence of landmines as an acceptable weapon anywhere. Crushing sanctions contribute to hunger and illness in North Korea by keeping out needed food and supplies. Finally, the DMZ is an ever-present reminder that the United States and North Korea are still at war with each other, and that at any moment, active hostilities could resume.

Both sides have nuclear weapons, and if such weapons were used, millions of people on either side of the border would die, including some of the 100,000 U.S. citizens living in South Korea.

We crossed the DMZ to say that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can avoid war. We can make peace.

Read the full story on the Radical Hope Blog Series website.