Gloria Steinem: Peace walk broke through ‘artificial barriers’ in North Korea

PAJU, South Korea, May 25 (UPI) — A group of international women activists led by feminist icon Gloria Steinem crossed the Korean demilitarized zone on Sunday.

The “WomenCrossDMZ” peace campaigners had “accomplished what no one said could be done…to be citizen diplomats,” said Steinem, during a press conference after reaching the South Korean side.

The Independent reported Steinem and her colleagues had used a well-trodden westerly route to cross the 2.5-mile wide DMZ, instead of the hoped-for entry at Panmunjom, the joint-security area where North and South Korean soldiers tensely face each other in a heavily militarized setting.

Steinem said the activists were able to hold “frank conversations” with North Korean women, and that the meeting broke through “artificial barriers.”

The activists arrived on the South Korean side after passing U.N. officials in the middle of the DMZ, then walking past a high wire gate on the southern side.

There, dressed in white, with multi-colored shawls reminiscent of a traditional Korean quilt, the women were processed at a South Korean immigration center, the same checkpoint where numerous South Koreans pass through when heading to the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Steinem said North Korea had inaccurately attributed a quote praising Kim Il Sung from one of the activists.

Outside the area of arrival, anti-Pyongyang protesters held signs signaling their disapproval of the peace walk, including English signs that read “Return to” directly above an image of the North Korean flag.

North Korean defectors said last Thursday they are opposed to the activists in response to the news of some of their alleged pro-Pyongyang remarks at Mangyongdae, the designated birthplace of Kim Il Sung.

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported the group is planning another peace walk for 2016, on May 24, the designated International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. The group said it would again seek permission to cross from Panmunjom, but reverse the walk, starting in South Korea, and ending it in the North.

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