South Korea to Allow Foreign Activists To Cross Inter Korean Border
D-Bo, May 15, 2015, 11:20 a.m.
South Korea said Friday it has decided to allow foreign activists to cross the heavily fortified inter-Korean border in late May, but it will advise them to use a western land route instead of walking through a truce village.
About 30 female activists from around the world, including U.S. activist Gloria Steinem and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire from Ireland, plan to march from the North to the South across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to deliver a peace message on May 24: International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament. A legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, the DMZ bisects the peninsula.
Crossing the DMZ requires approval from both South and North Korea and the United Nations Command as the two Koreas still remain technically at war. The Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
"Seoul has decided to allow the foreign activists to cross the DMZ," the Ministry of Unification said. "But the government plans to recommend them to use the western corridor along the Gyeongui railway, (instead of the truce village of Panmunjom)."
The truce village sits in the middle of the DMZ, which is guarded by stone-faced soldiers on each side of the military demarcation line.
The activists said that the purpose of the DMZ crossing is to express hope that Korean families separated by the Korean War will be united someday and military tensions between the two sides can be reduced.
Seoul has said that the planned event should be made in a way not to spark unintended tension on the Korean Peninsula, raising concerns that it could be politicized by the North. North Korea has voiced its support for the event.
Some critics said that the activists' plan may have a good purpose, but the move will not help resolve North Korea's pressing problems of nuclear weapons and poor human rights.
The U.S. has advised those activists not to travel to the North, saying that the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens abroad are the government's top priorities.