Two Nobel Peace laureates on a journey to march through the inter-Korean border Tuesday hoped it could help bring peace and reunification to the divided Koreas.
The two Nobel laureates -- Leymah Gbowee and Mairead Corrigan Maguire -- as well as American feminist Gloria Steinem and scores of other women leaders, left for Pyongyang earlier in the day for the march set for Sunday.
Speaking to a press conference in Beijing, the organizers, WomenCrossDMZ.org, called on the United Nations Command overseeing the inter-Korean border to allow them to march through the truce village of Panmunjom.
Since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended without a peace treaty, the four-kilometer-wide DMZ has split the Korean Peninsula.
Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel Peace laureate for her role in leading a Liberian women's movement that helped bring an end to her country's brutal civil war, said women and children are those who mostly suffer from a conflict, recalling her memories in the Liberian conflict.
"I am walking with our sisters from North and South Korea to change the dynamics of the Korean War and to bring a human dimension into this conflict," Gbowee said. "And I believe that this is the first step in the right direction."
Maguire, who won the prize in 1976 for her peace efforts in Northern Ireland, also agreed.
"I come from Northern Ireland and, in 1976, we were on the brink of a civil war and three of my younger sisters and children were all killed," Maguire said. "We said, by clearly, we reject the use of bombs, bullets, war and violence.
"So, we go and hope because we believe that the people of Korea, they don't want a war, they don't want killing, and they want to live together," Maguire added.
"So, we come to go to be with them and to support them and bring this journey toward peace, more reconciliation and reunification of Korea," she said.
Both Seoul and Pyongyang gave approval for the march across the DMZ, but the South Korean government recommended they use the road that crosses the western part of the border.
"We officially request cooperation from the U.N. Command for the women's peace delegation to cross the DMZ at Panmunjom," said Christine Ahn, an international coordinator of the delegation.
"We believe it is time for civilian peacemakers to begin the process of replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty," she said.
"For us, the significance of crossing the DMZ at Panmunjom is that we, as women from 15 different countries, 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 longstanding division can be overcome," Ahn said.
Ahn said the women leaders will send an official request to the U.N. Command before departing for Pyongyang later in the day. Panmunjom sits in the middle of the DMZ.
Their Sunday march across the DMZ marks the May 24 International Women's Day for Disarmament.
It also marks the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula. (Yonhap)