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May 23, 2015, 09:58:49 PM
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Offline Peter

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Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« on: May 23, 2015, 09:58:49 PM »
I probably wouldn't have given Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk much thought but for my recent involvement with the NGO Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) program. Through it, I've had the honor of getting to know Sharon, Ken, and to a lesser extent Jenny as well as several other defectors/survivors of the North Korean regime. Sharon, Ken, and Jenny shared their stories in this article published a few days ago. Granted, the title is long and cumbersome:

Woman, 23, reveals how she trekked for two months across mountains and crocodile-infested river to flee North Korea after being forced to work for 15 hours a day down a coal mine for 50p a day.

I attended an event last week at which Ken and Jenny spoke. There were tears all round, as usual. Yesterday, a film crew interviewed Sharon and I and filmed part of our lesson:


I'm viewing the march through perhaps rather unique lenses: I have 12 years experience researching cults and that, coupled with my recent experiences with North Korean defectors, has left me both sceptical of the march's chances of achieving anything other than the creation of a few photo ops and weary of the organiser's desire to not bring up current human rights violations.

Having become quite familiar with the histories of Sharon and Ken, I found some of the quotes and ideas expressed below reprehensible and incredibly naive.

I admit my view of "peace events" has been colored by the likes of Hitler-praising, convicted serial rapist Joeng Myeong-seok; the Shinchonji cult, with its exploiting "immortal" leader, Lee Man-hee; and the cancelled-at-the-last minute 1939 Nuremberg rally. The theme of that rally was to be "peace", but it was cancelled as the day before it was scheduled to take place, Sept. 2, 1939, Hitler inconveniently invaded Poland. Maintaining his fictitious desire for peace would have been just silly and rather pointless. As far as cancellation reasons go, that was a pretty good one.

Suffice to say I'm filled with skepticism when I hear the word "peace". Sure, I'm all for it - I just don't have much faith when a desire for peace is uttered by the likes of the NK regime (as it is below), Hitler-praising serial rapists, cult leaders who claim they're immortal, Scientologists, or Hitler himself. Call me cynical.

When I first heard of the cross-border peace event, I was reminded of all those sham "peace" events. Granted, this one wasn't instigated by a cult, but it was quickly coopted by one. A rather big one in fact (North Korea in case you were wondering). And reading further, the march's brainchild has a reputation as a North Korean apologist. Like Shinchonji "peace" events, the word "peace" operates as both a siren call and a diminisher of critical thinking. Like the Shinchonji event (which attracted some of the same supporters - most notably Desmond Tutu), I'm coming across the same kind of defences and attacks on critics. The simplistic "if you're not for a peace event, you must be in favor of war," and "at least they're doing something."


Doing "something" that can only feed the propaganda machine of a brutal regime is not worthy of any kind of praise. Doing nothing is certainly preferable to giving the NK regime propaganda material.

I wished we lived in a world in which dictators and cult leaders could so easily be swayed to change their tune, but alas, that is not the universe we inhabit. The control of the North Korean regime is so total, it doesn't matter how many songs are sung or photos taken under photos of Kim Sung-il and Jong-il. Likewise, you don't help Scientology victims by having dinner with David Miscavige and agreeing not to talk about current abuses. Isn't the unwillingness to talk about current abuses a little like going to an anti-smoking event and not talking about cancer? Could there be a bigger white dinosaur in the room? I'm reminded of Faulty Towers "Don't mention the war". In this case, the call becomes "Don't mention the concentration camps." And they didn't.

Don't Mention The War

Here are some articles and selected quotes that explore both sides to some extent, but mostly the controversy. Supportive articles are also included, but I quoted from them much less if at all except to underline a comment I disagree with^.

https://www.womencrossdmz.org/

Walking for Peace: Reuniting Families, Ending the Korean War

Walking for Peace: Reuniting Families, Ending the Korean War
February 10, 2015: 10 Questions Steinem Should Ask NK About Women’s Rights (But Probably Won’t Dare) (One Free Korea)

March 11: With Plan to Walk Across DMZ, Women Aim for Peace in Korea (New York Times)

April 3: NK Supports Gloria Steinem-led Women's Walk Across the DMZ (The Guardian)
North Korea Approves Feminist March Led by Gloria Steinem Across the DMZ (Mediaite)

April 7: Why People Call Christine Ahn “Pro-North Korean” (One Free Korea)
Quote
Ahn opposed human rights legislation for North Korea that funded broadcasting to North Korea, and that provided for aid and asylum for North Korean refugees, calling it an effort “by hawkish conservatives and Christian fundamentalists with the intention of bringing regime change in North Korea.” (As if that would be a bad thing.) ...

Ahn claims to be merely “pro-peace,” except that you’ll never catch her criticizing North Korea for breaking it. For example, to Ahn, the “root cause” of North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, an attack that killed two ROK Marines and two civilians, was the illegitimacy of South Korea’s claim to the waters around it, the failure of South Korea to turn those waters into a neutral “peace zone,” and the failure of the United States to redraw the boundary unilaterally in the North’s favor, regardless of South Korea’s views on the matter.
April 8: Why Gloria Steinem, Other Women & I Plan to March to the World's Most Fortified Border (The Huffington Post)
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This is to inform you that Pyongyang expressed its full support to the International Women's Peace Walk. The Korean Committee for Solidarity With World Peoples, the Democratic Women's Union of Korea, the Committee for Overseas Compatriots of Korea and other related organizations will render all necessary assistances to the event for its success. Since this is an international peace event timed in this special year marking 70th anniversary of liberation and simultaneous division of our beloved country and nation, we hope that the event will be a specially significant contribution to terminating the current status of war, replacing armistice with peace agreement, and thereby achieving permanent peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.

Quote
Why are we walking? We are walking to invite all concerned to imagine a new chapter in Korean history, one marked by dialogue, understanding and -- ultimately -- forgiveness.
Forgiveness is for the victims to give. Outside parties, especially those that think mentioning the crimes the victims have endured is "bananas", have no right to call upon victims to forgive. I can't think of a more repulsive and condescending attitude. It's oh so easy to call for forgiveness when you are not the victim and have no desire to discuss the crimes or criticise in any way those responsible. Peace is the absence (not presence) of human rights violations. Astounding that "peace activists" appear to have forgotten that.

Is Gloria Steinem a Propaganda Tool For North Korea? (The Daily Beast)
Quote
... But it’s strange that this group of women has so far been mum on the violence occurring at the hands of the Kim regime in North Korea: executions, rape, forced starvation, and enslavement, according to a 2014 United Nations report on North Korea’s human rights abuses. ... One might expect that Steinem, one of the most vocal feminist advocates in the ‘70s, would call out the regime’s brutal treatment of women.

North Korea, one of the most repressive countries on the planet, and an egregious human rights violator. “Its treatment of women, particularly repatriated female defectors, is hideous, as noted by the UN in recent years,” Terry says. “I just hope that if Ms. Steinem and this group of prominent women decide to go through with this walk, it is to highlight human rights abuses that are taking place in North Korea, not to further blame the U.S. and South Korea for the myriad problems created by the North Korean regime, as Ms. Ahn has done before.”
April 20: Column: Women for Peace (Hankyoreh)

April 21: Gloria Steinem, Nobel Laureates to Walk Across Korean DMZ in Push for Peace (The Globe & Mail)
Quote
The planned walking team includes not only Ms. Steinem but Nobel laureates Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Leymah Gbowee, women who helped end violence in Northern Ireland and Liberia. They intend to travel first to Pyongyang to hold a symposium with North Korean women to “focus on sharing different women’s experience of war and conflict,” and what role women could play in calming hostilities.

As evidence that their intervention could prompt action, she holds up the approvals received from both North and South Korea, which suggest a willingness by governments to have the women raise the topic, she said. The Ministry of Unification in Seoul, in a letter sent late last week, said it “will render necessary cooperation,” so long as all approvals are in order. Pyongyang had earlier given its ok, although further approvals, including from the United Nations body that controls the demilitarized zone, must still be secured before the walk can proceed.

The stakes, Ms. Kim argued, are high. “What is at the root of North Korea’s weapons development? What is at the root of North Korea’s human rights problems?” She answered by pointing to the lack of a proper peace treaty, saying bombs and tortured prisoners are, to Pyongyang, “justified” because “they consider their national security still at risk by being in a state of war with basically the greatest power in the world today, the United States.”

Critics call that line of thinking Pollyannaish. If North Korea’s human rights violations stems from the state of war, then “why isn’t the human rights situation in South Korea as bad?” asked Sokeel Park, director of research and strategy at Liberty in North Korea, which works with refugees.

“North Korea has the extent of human rights violations they have because that’s how the government has constructed itself and maintained power internally. That’s not because of a threat from the U.S.”

Besides, North Korea hasn’t shown itself much interested in peace. It regularly conducts provocative nuclear tests, sunk a South Korean naval ship in 2010 and, in 2013, said it had scrapped the armistice agreement altogether.
April 23: Seoul May Let Female Group Cross the DMZ (JoongAng Daily)
Criticizing Human Rights Before DMZ March ‘Bananas’ – Steinem (NK News)

April 24: Activists Say Both North Korea and South Korea Approve Women’s Peace Walk (New York Times)
Quote
Initially dismissed by some critics as naďve, the organizers have pointed out that female activists played critically important roles in resolving other seemingly intractable conflicts, most notably the sectarian strife that ravaged Northern Ireland in the 1970s and the civil war that upended Liberia more than a decade ago. Ms. Steinem also said the criticism reflected gender bias, asserting that even the Army War College has said that “the only way to prevent the outbreak of catastrophic confrontation is to reach agreement on ending the armistice from the Korean War, in essence a peace agreement, and give a formal security guarantee to North Korea tied to nonproliferation — in other words, it is talking.”

The organizers also rejected criticism by some human rights advocates that their engagement with the North Korean authorities had conspicuously avoided challenging that country’s political repressions and human rights record. “If we’re trying to initiate a project for long-term peacebuilding measures, it seems that it’s not quite right to go in with an attack,” Ms. Kim said.

Ms. Chung also suggested that discussions of such issues, at this stage, would be counterproductive. “When you go out on a first date, you don’t talk about all the bad things you did last summer.” she said.

April 26: Empty Marching in Korea (The Washington Post)
Quote
We urge Steinem and anyone else seeking to shake up the status quo on the Korean peninsula to march not from Pyongyang to the DMZ but instead to stage a protest at China’s border with North Korea, which so many North Koreans attempt to cross in a desperate bid to escape their repression. It may not yield immediate results, but it would put Pyongyang on notice that the vanguards of international civil society stand in solidarity with the abused, not the abusers.
April 27: Human Rights Advocates Speak Out on Gloria Steinem's Korea DMZ Walk (UPI)
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... But on Sunday, Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Greg Scarlatoiu of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said the peace walk across the 2.5-mile wide demilitarized zone is for North Korea "nothing but human rights theater intended to cover up its death camps and crimes against humanity."

Suzy Kim, a participant and a professor of Korean history at Rutgers University said, "If we're trying to initiate a project for long-term peacebuilding measures, it seems that it's not quite right to go in with an attack."

Cooper and Scarlatoiu questioned Pyongyang's motives and wrote, "If Pyongyang truly is interested in a peace gesture, it might start by releasing hundreds of South Korean POWs, now in their 80s and 90s, who were never allowed to return to their loved ones after the armistice."

May 16:

May 19: Undeterred by Purge Rumors, Women Peace Activists Leave for Pyongyang (NK News)
Quote
“The timing is out of our hands,” Suzy Kim, a professor of Korean history at Rutgers University who is one of the organizers of the event. “Whatever happened domestically within North Korea, in some ways, is not something we can control.”

The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power cancelled its support for a sports diplomacy envoy that included Dennis Rodman after the execution of Jang Song Thaek in late 2013. At the time, a spokesman said the company had responded to “almost total condemnation of North Korea worldwide”.
May 20: Women’s Peace Walk Across the Korean DMZ Impeded (Code Pink)
Quote
"We have approval from both governments to cross the DMZ, but we don't know precisely where," Ahn told The Associated Press at the hotel in Pyongyang where she and the group are staying. "We have every intention of crossing at Panmunjom. However, it seems we are not able to get official responses. We want to cross at Panmunjom because it's been 62-plus years that we've allowed our government leaders to try to break the impasse and the stalemate. Sorry, you haven't succeeded," Ahn said. "We want to cross there. It has huge symbolic importance and we haven't come all this way to just cross where trucks carrying cargo cross. Panmunjom is why we have come."...

The women’s peace walk has garnered wide international support, including endorsements from U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, co-founder of Twitter Evan Williams, actor Robert Redford, and physician Deepak Chopra.       
Women Peacemakers Head to the Korean DMZ to Spark Conversation, Change (The Nation)
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Steinem noted that this upcoming walk has not been without naysayers: “It’s interesting to me as a founder of the Women’s Media Center that supposedly objective media reporters are calling us naďve,” she said. “It seems to me that that’s proof of a gender bias in the media.” She added that she hopes the press will look beyond that bias in the coverage of this historical event. Steinem and her cohort said their hope is not to end what they call “the world’s longest war” but to instead replace silence with dialogue.
May 21: Gloria Steinem Joins Women Activists for NK Peace March (Daily Mail)
NK Reports Pro-Pyongyang Remarks by Foreign Activists (Yonhap News)
Quote
North Korea's Rodong Sinmun, the communist party's official newspaper, on Thursday carried an article and photo of their visit to the birthplace of the late leader in Pyongyang. The newspaper reported that Maguire said she was "highly touched" after learning about the late leader's revolutionary life. It also quoted Korean-American Eun-hee Ahn as saying that Kim devoted his entire life to the freedom and emancipation of North Koreans.
Gloria Steinem’s NK Peace Walk Draws Ire Despite Lack of Any Better Ideas (Time)
Peace Activists Hit Roadblock Ahead of DMZ Crossing (Japan Today)
Gloria Steinem’s Peace Delegation Periscope Live from Pyongyang (The Guardian)



May 22: Activists Cancel Plan to Cross DMZ Via Panmunjom (The Korea Herald)
Peace activists and Gloria Steinem ready to cross Korea DMZ (John Power via Christian Science Monitor)
Quote
Marchers from Pyongyang to Seoul include two Nobel laureates and are facing criticism after Ms. Steinem said it was 'bananas' to criticize North Korea over human rights. ... Lawrence Peck, an independent researcher who tracks pro-North Korea groups, says Mr. Roh "basically worships at the altar of the Kim cult and the Kim dictatorship.”

But First, Lemme Take a Selfie (Hardmoshi Blog)
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Just when you thought that the WomenCrossDMZ march couldn’t get any more unpleasant, it became an advert for Twitter. Colleen Baik, who was a senior designer for Twitter until recently, has been using the march to promote Twitter’s video streaming service, Periscope.
May 23: Defector: DMZ Activists Don't Understand Plight of Women in NK (CNN)
Quote
I do not know Christine Ahn. They all tell us that they are feminists and seek peace on the Korean peninsula. Yet not one of these women, who have told us that they are good-intentioned, has any understanding of the plight of women in North Korea. They say they are doing this for peace and that they will not be used.

As they cross the DMZ into a propaganda festival for the North Korean government, I hope that my words cross their minds. I and many North Korean women campaign every single day for the rights of North Korean women ― and we do so without Ahn's fanfare. It is us, the North Korean women, who have suffered and we urge the world to listen to our voices.
Steinem Says Isolating NK Not Working (AP)
Quote
On Thursday, North Korea's state media reported on a peace symposium held by the women in Pyongyang with representatives of North Korean women's groups, saying they branded the U.S. "a kingdom of terrorism and a kingpin of human rights abuses." South Korea's Yonhap news agency, meanwhile, picking up on the North Korean reports, quoted academics in the South saying the group's activities would not help efforts to pressure the North to give up its nuclear weapons program or improve its human rights record.

"Those words were never uttered," Ahn, the walk organizer, told AP. "We spoke about the impact of militarism around the world, including in Liberia, Colombia, Japan, Northern Ireland as well as the United States. We are operating in an environment where multiple sides will take our words out of context to advance their political agendas."
I think Ahn's response to North Korea inventing speeches is indicative of her bias. Rather than criticise North Korea for the invention, she blames both sides. South Korea, for all its faults, hasn't - and I don't think ever will - put words in your mouth. North Korea, having done so, has shown pretty clearly how serious it is about this "peace" march and why it agreed to it in the first place.

May 24, 2015, 09:53:13 AM
Reply #1

Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2015, 09:53:13 AM »
There's a lot in the following article by Christine Ahn that explains why she feels this peace march is a good idea and she shows why she has been called an apologist for the regime. She also demonstrates remarkable ignorance and naivety.

At the heart of her hopes of a solution is the notion that a peace treaty would do a lot to improve conditions in North Korea. It's a view I've seen expressed before, and it boggles my mind every time. It's a simplistic and ignorant solution that doesn't take into account the fact the regime is a totalitarian regime that only exists because it is able to control its population through concentration camps, generational punishments, and murder. It does not do so because a "state of war" exists. The illusion of a "state of war" that North Korea tries so hard to maintain by sinking warships, shelling islands, and issuing nuclear threats etc helps to keep the state alive. Likewise, purges of the elite also serve the same purpose. Ruling elite one day, dead enemy of the state the next. Who is North Korea at war with if not its own people and leaders besides the Kim at the top?

Proponents of the "peace treaty" solution misuse the word war. Sure a "a state of war" technically exists, but the "technically" part is key. An armistice agreement was signed that ended the fighting. North Korea routinely breaks that agreement. A real state of war doesn't exist. That's why the sinking of Choenan warship was such a surprise. That's why I don't feel like I'm living in a war zone. That's why Seoul was able to be rebuilt. I just read of the ISIS advance on Baghdad. Now that's a war zone. 

The regime uses the threat of war to prop up its existence. To believe the regime would give up its main "excuse" for the concentration camps and other totalitarian is absurdly naive. Totalitarian cults survive and thrive on a fictitious enemy. Scientology has psychiatry. Bible-based cults use the boogey man of Satan. With North Korea, the outside enemy is primarily South Korea and America.

It really is a case of George Orwell proving himself a seer. I don't think anyone has ever read 1984 and thought to themselves "If only Oceania wasn't at war, it could stop controlling and killing its own people." 1984 is of course fiction, but it is also a work of prophecy. Christopher Hitchens often said that North Korea looks like a country that used 1984 as a "how to" book rather than as the warning.

North Korea needs to maintain the illusion of an ongoing war. It feeds their propaganda machine and justifies their military first policy. It does not, however, justify or explain the concentration camps. That seems to be the narrative of some who believe a "peace treaty" would magically solve everything: North Korea is the way it is because of outside threats. It kills its own people because ... America. That is why the likes of Ahn have been referred to as apologists. And that's what the march is a complete waste of time. As an agent of change, it is about as useful as a Moonie soccer tournament for peace or a Raelian orgy.
 
A state of war does, however, exist. The war is between the regime and its own people. No amount of hugs, songs, and photo ops under giant portraits of The Dear Leader and his son will ever change that.

April 4, 2014: Breathless in North Korea
Quote

As the doctor placed his stethoscope on my daughter's back, the lights went out in the entire hospital, as it often does throughout North Korea due to energy shortages. In that moment of darkness, tears streamed down my face. I cried, not just for my daughter whose condition was precarious, but also for the North Korean people who continue to suffer so heavily under the weight of an ongoing Korean War that has shaped every aspect of their lives....

To great surprise, Pyongyang acknowledged last year how the un-ended war has forced it "to divert large human and material resources to bolstering up the armed forces though they should have been directed to the economic development and improvement of people's living standard."... Unfortunately, North Korea's heavy military spending isn't just to defend against South Korea, but against the world's most powerful military in the world: the United States.

And while repression in North Korea is widely recognized, less understood is why North Korea is such a militarized nation. "We cannot think of human rights without considering the sovereignty of a nation," declared the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. North Korea has long declared the right to defend its national sovereignty, justifying its pursuit of nuclear weapons as a precaution against a U.S. invasion and occupation as recently experienced by Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ongoing Korean War not only diverts investment away from the Korean people; it justifies repression in the name of national security on both sides of the DMZ. One week following the UN report on North Korean human rights, Amnesty International issued a public letter to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, daughter of the former dictator Park Chung-hee, concerning her administration's use of the country's National Security Law (NSL) "as a form of censorship to intimidate and imprison people exercising their rights."...

... The country is not without achievement. Despite famine, a nearly collapsed economy, and debilitating sanctions, North Korea still provides free and universal healthcare to its citizens and to visitors like my daughter, who under the care of the doctors and nurses in Pyongyang was brought back to health. North Korea's physician-to-patient ratio is on par with high-income countries.

I can see why, despite the hardships, North Korean people are proud of the society they are trying to create. ... North Korea provides universal childcare to all working moms.

Pak Chol of the DPRK UN Mission wrote me in an email: "We have no time for hating and killing each other. We should put an end as soon as possible to all those cold war legacies for good and pull together to tackle our common task."

By drawing that line, the United States divided a country that had been unified for thousands of years and paved the way for the Korean War. As the world's unparalleled military power that was responsible for the division of Korea -- whose unbridled air bombings killed millions during the war, and whose current policies of war games and sanctions keep the North Korean people on their knees -- Washington must do the right thing and end this senseless and wasteful war. A peace treaty would go a long way towards defusing rapidly escalating tensions in Northeast Asia and freeing our leaders to urgently address the crises we collectively face, so my daughter and future generations have a chance for survival.

DMZ Peace March Press Releases:
https://www.womencrossdmz.org/_docs/April_24_release_final.pdf
https://www.womencrossdmz.org/_docs/May_13_press_release_final.pdf
https://www.womencrossdmz.org/_docs/May_15_press_release_final.pdf
https://www.womencrossdmz.org/_docs/May_22_press_release_final.pdf

May 24, 2015, 12:36:30 PM
Reply #2

Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2015, 12:36:30 PM »
Updates here:
https://twitter.com/christineahn
https://twitter.com/TimothyS



Here's an interesting look at a North Korean PR piece about the event from Charles Park:
Quote
As expected, DPRK downplays Women's Peace March and likely reinterprets the women's message. For example, in this article (and others), they do not mention anything about ending the Korean War, replacing the Armistice, and reuniting separated families - which were the three key messages of the march... Instead, they make vague references to "peace" which is nothing new. It's unlike the women let themselves be "used" by DPRK. But as did Seoul and Washington, they still tried to use the women for their own propaganda purposes.

International Peace Symposium Takes Place
An International Peace Symposium took place here on Thursday by women of different countries. Present there were Chae Chun Hui, vice-chairwoman of the Korean Committee for Solidarity with the World People (KCSWP) and vice-chairwoman of the Central Committee of the Democratic Women's Union of Korea, officials concerned and members of a delegation to take part in the 2015 international women's grand march for the reunification and peace in Korea.

Speeches were made by anti-war peace activists Irish Maguire Mairead, Liberian Gbowee Leymah Roberta, American Benjamin Susan Jill, Colombian Guerrero Acevedo Angela Patricia, Japanese Takazato Suzuyo and Kim Chun Sil, member of the Korean Committee on Measures for the Sexual Slavery for Japanese Army and Drafting Victims.

Speakers said that the Japanese imperialists keen on aggression and war committed the heinous crimes of forcing 200 000 Korean women into sexual slavery, slashing the Asia-Pacific region and slaughtering its people. They said the U.S. is trying to ignite wars in different parts of the world, branding it as a kingdom of terrorism and a kingpin of human right abuses.

Women's organizations and organizations for peace movement have made efforts for women's rights in various parts of the world. The power of the women is inexhaustible as they love justice and peace and aspire after the bright future of children. But their human rights are being mercilessly trampled down in the capitalist countries.

Speakers extended full support and firm solidarity to the struggle of the Korean people for the reunification and peace of the country, saying that the tragedy of the Korean nation who has lived divided into two for a long period should be ended as early as possible.

May 24, 2015, 01:07:29 PM
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Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2015, 01:07:29 PM »
May 23: AP Interview: Steinem Says Isolating N. Korea Not Working (AP)
Quote
On Thursday, North Korea's state media reported on a peace symposium held by the women in Pyongyang with representatives of North Korean women's groups, saying they branded the U.S. "a kingdom of terrorism and a kingpin of human rights abuses." South Korea's Yonhap news agency, meanwhile, picking up on the North Korean reports, quoted academics in the South saying the group's activities would not help efforts to pressure the North to give up its nuclear weapons program or improve its human rights record.

"Those words were never uttered," Ahn, the walk organizer, told AP. "We spoke about the impact of militarism around the world, including in Liberia, Colombia, Japan, Northern Ireland as well as the United States. We are operating in an environment where multiple sides will take our words out of context to advance their political agendas."

Steinem dismissed suggestions the group, which also includes two Nobel Peace Prize winners, was deliberately massaging its message to please their North Korean hosts.

"I haven't had to censor myself at all. We've made it a point not to meet with high officials or to play basketball with high officials," she said, referring to former NBA star Dennis Rodman's trip to Pyongyang, when he played basketball and sang happy birthday to leader Kim Jong Un. "Obviously, there's certain things I won't do."

She said she refused to bow or stand before statues of the leaders and be photographed, which is often expected of foreign visitors.

May 24: Female Activists Cross Inter-Korean Border from N. Korea (Yonhap News)
Women Activists Cross DMZ between North and South Korea (CNN)
Quote
"It is absolutely outrageous that they completely ignore the suffering of the North Korean people, especially North Korean women," said Suzanne Scholte, head of the North Korea Freedom Coalition. "If they truly cared, they would cross the China-North Korea border instead, which is actually more dangerous now than the DMZ," Scholte said ahead of the crossing. North Korean women who cross into China often become victims of human trafficking, ending up forced to work in the sex industry or sold as brides to rural Chinese men.
Pretty sure Suzanne is a woman, but obviously it helps to frame this as a male versus female thing:


May 24, 2015, 10:15:24 PM
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Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2015, 10:15:24 PM »
May 24: Defectors Condemn North Korea Peace March (The Daily Telegraph)
Quote
“Countless innocent people are being tortured, dying in political prison camps in North Korea, even at this very hour”, said Dr Lee, who spent eight years in a North Korean prison before escaping to South Korea, where she became the first female North Korean defector to earn a doctorate and was awarded the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award in 2010.

“Defectors, when repatriated back to North Korea, face public execution, torture or both, and their family members are sent to prison camps or left to die of starvation,” she said.
“The root cause of these problems can easily be identified in the hereditary dictatorship of Kim Jong-un, its cult of personality and suppression of human rights - and certainly not in the South Korean government,” she added. “So, to be so particular about convening a seminar in Pyongyang and for that to be the starting point for the march to Seoul via the Demilitarized Zone seems puzzling to me.”

The march will “dilute the urgency with which the world responds to the horrors of human rights violations in North Korea and will grant Kim an opportunity to get away with his crimes,” she added.

That, in turn, will be used by the regime to reinforce the cult of personality around the North Korean leader and further oppress the people. It is very possible, she added, that the organisers of the march have “received considerable compensation from the regime” to organise the event.

“This march is nothing but political pretense to take advantage of the situation on the Korean peninsula”, Dr Lee said. “In no way does it offer practical help to our families and brothers who are suffering in North Korea.”

Dr Lee is spearheading an alternative campaign and calling on the governments in Seoul and Pyongyang to open the border and grant free passage to take food, clothes, medicine and other necessities to any surviving family members they have in the North.
Peace Activists Cross Demilitarized Zone Separating Koreas (New York Times)
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Just two days before the women’s arrival in Pyongyang, the North’s state-run media hurled one of its harshest — and most sexist — screeds against President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, calling her “a fork-tongued viper” and one “not worth calling a woman” because “she has never given birth to a baby.” Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry called the North Korean government, led by Kim Jong-un, “one of the most egregious examples of reckless disregard for human rights.”
Women Activists Cross DMZ to Mixed Reception on South Korean Side (Reuters)
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The group, which had initially set out to embark on a symbolic walk across the DMZ at the Panmunjom "Truce Village", instead crossed from North Korea in a bus flanked by South Korean military and police cars at a customs area which connects to the jointly-operated Kaesong Industrial Zone. ...

On the South Korean side, the group united with a larger group of South Korean activists, and held a rally at a pavilion just south of the Demilitarised Zone. But a few hundred meters away, between lines of South Korean police, the reception was more frosty as around 500 conservative protesters greeted the WomenCrossDMZ group with placards telling them to "go to hell", "get out" or go back to North Korea.

The group is not without its critics further afield too. Washington D.C.-based blogger and attorney Joshua Stanton has for weeks on his blog One Free Korea said the march detracts from human rights issues in North Korea, and ultimately works in the isolated and repressive state's favor.
Female Activists Cross Inter-Korean Border For Peace on Peninsula
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The peace march also met with criticism here as anti-Pyongyang activists claimed that the female activists have pro-Pyongyang stances, citing a report by the North's media. A group of conservative activists held a rally in front of Imjingak, a park near the border to protest against them.

North Korea's Rodong Sinmun, the communist party's official newspaper, reported last week that they "praised" the North's late founder Kim Il-sung at his birthplace. "I would like to say unequivocally that those statements ... are absolutely not true," Steinem said. She said they made a protest against the North for such a report.
Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ Amid Heavy Security and Criticism (LA Times)
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“This is an enormous triumph,” Steinem said. "We feel very celebratory and positive that we have created a voyage across the DMZ in peace and reconciliation that was said to be impossible,” she added. ...

“They’re just useful idiots for North Korea,” said Lee Dong-bok, 78, a retired South Korean lawmaker who participated in the protest. “They’re creating the false impression that North Korea is actually interested in peace,” Lee said.
Women's Walk Across Koreas' DMZ Denied; They Cross by Bus (AP) Plenty of unsupportive comments. Some quite sexist and rude.

Lovely quilt by the way:


Women's Peace March" Criticised as They Cross Korean DMZ (The Daily Telegraph)


May 25, 2015, 07:30:26 PM
Reply #6

Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2015, 07:30:26 PM »
May 25: Rights Group Concludes Journey (Joongang Daily)
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Speaking on behalf of the group, Steinem said the women felt “very celebratory and positive” that they had “created a voyage across the DMZ,” adding that they had accomplished what was “said to be impossible.”

“We were able to be citizen diplomats,” said the 81-year-old, who is widely respected for her social activism and participation in the feminist movement in the United States during the 1960s and ’70s.

Ahnkim Jung-ae, one of the organizers in South Korea, said the event was promoted with the aim to bring about peace and reunification to the Korean Peninsula through the women’s power.

Despite the group’s intent to help the two Koreas reach for mutual understanding, its six-day trip to the North prompted concerns in Seoul that their stay there would simply be used by Pyongyang for propaganda purposes.

North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun carried an article on Thursday in which it quoted members of the group as extolling late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung for his “numerous achievements,” including his fight against the Imperial Japanese Army during its occupation of the Korean Peninsula, during their visit to Kim’s preserved birthplace.

In regard to the state-run newspaper’s report, Steinem said the attributed remarks were “absolutely not true.”

During their stay, the group met with North Korean women in Pyongyang, seeking, in part, to enhance understanding of one another.

Coleen Baik, one of the group’s members, posted photos on Twitter of the meeting Thursday with the women in Pyongyang, who were dressed in the traditional hanbok, commenting that the “sisters embraced in tears” and made “promises of peace.”

Still, some criticized the organizers for being too naive and failing to address the dire human rights conditions perpetrated by the North Korean regime, such as the country’s political prison system, believed to hold more than 200,000 state-designated dissenters.

In response, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, who is acclaimed for her non-violence efforts in Northern Ireland, said human rights can be ensured when there is “a normal situation” in which countries are not at war and called for an end to a series of economic sanctions on the North for its nuclear development in violation of United Nations resolutions.

She also called for a peace treaty between the two Koreas, arguing that it would allow human rights to improve. In making its demand for Seoul and Pyongyang to sign such a treaty, the group said on its website that 10 million Korean families are still separated by the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and 70 million Koreans “live in a state of war due to unresolved conflict.”

The women’s rights group initially planned on crossing the DMZ through the truce village of Panmunjom for the significance it would carry: The hamlet was the venue for the signing of the armistice agreement that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.
Female Activist Hails DMZ Crossing as Symbol of Peace, Unification of Korea (Yonhap News)
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She called for more positive involvement by women in global issues in order to iron out lingering differences and tensions throughout the world, saying that women played a major role in ending violence in Ireland and bringing about peace in Liberia. "I believe it's especially crucial that women help initiate and pursue peace efforts," she said. "We will thrive on this fragile spaceship Earth that we love so much."
Most of today's protesters were women.

May 27, 2015, 12:40:03 PM
Reply #7

Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2015, 12:40:03 PM »
May 25: Women Cross DMZ: A Q&A and Closing Thoughts (One Free Korea)

Korean Activists Brave the DMZ for Peace and Disarmament (Jakarta Globe)
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Thirty women peace activists who crossed the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea have sparked controversy and conversation.

An all-women group of peace activists crossed on Sunday from North to South Korea, through a veritable no-man’s land — and one of the most heavily militarized and dangerous borders in the world — with the hope of focusing world attention on the peninsula and pushing for peace and reconciliation.

“We have no illusions that we can end the Korean War overnight, but by taking this single step across the DMZ, we hope to spark a revitalized movement towards meaningful peaceful reconciliation,” said Korean-American activist Christine Ahn, the event’s principle organizer, in an interview with the Jakarta Globe. ...

Ahn has been signaled out in particular. Joshua Stanton, who is well known among North Korea watchers, called her “pro-North Korea” and implied in an April post on the blog One Free Korea that she could also be a “communist,” allegations she refutes.

“It’s a relic of McCarthyism from the Cold War, and it’s intended to silence and freeze engagement by those aimed at warming and improving relations. As many of our delegates have made clear, without dialogue, you have nothing. No improvement in human rights or denuclearization,” Ahn said. “Also it seems those who want to maintain the status quo on the peninsula — the intense militarization of Korea, separation of families, [and] repression on both sides of the DMZ — are the first ones to allege that anyone who engages with North Korea is an apologist.”

Other Korea experts were more detached in their view of the women’s peace march.

“I think critics of the event are ascribing more significance to it than it warrants objectively,” said David Straub, associate director of the Korean Studies Program at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and who served  in South Korea as a US diplomat.

The peace march would  probably not have much impact one way or the other, he added.

“If anything this march will undermine the narrative in North Korea that the United States is this evil imperialist regime that wants to bring ill and bring down North Korea. This march can show the North Korean people that we are a diverse country and that there are those actively trying to promote peace and reconciliation,” he said.
Well, North Koreans who attended the event in NK wee full of stories of American atrocities during the war. I'm not so sure such one-sided narratives can undermine that Party's view that the US is evil. They seemed to be promoting quite actively and deliberately.

Meet the woman Who Led a March for Peace Across Korea's Field Strewn with a Million Land Mines (Donald Kirk Via The Independent)
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The “WomenCrossDMZ” team, marching for peace across one of the world’s most dangerous territories, hardly set any precedents by entering South Korea by bus on a well-travelled road through the DMZ. Indeed, they were processed through South Korean immigration like ordinary tourists.

But the feminist icon and activist Ms Steinem, confronted by a phalanx of sometimes sceptical journalists, said the 30 women had “accomplished what no one said could be done – we were able to be citizen diplomats”.

Effervescent and ebullient at 81, Ms Steinem did the talking for the group as they huddled in South Korea’s immigration transit centre. They had nothing but superlatives for “all that we accomplished”. She said they had had “frank conversations” with North Korean women, away from officials; that they had broken through “artificial barriers”.

Gloria Steinem visits North Korea to push feminism and peace (Hot Air)
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However, before anyone thinks this could be Steinem’s “Nixon moment,” this tour of North Korea and DMZ crossing has been met with some less-than-encouraging protests. The Telegraph reports:

Demonstrators waved placards reading “Don’t say peace, you are unqualified!” and “”Women Cross (sic) Go to Hell!” Other posters accused them of being agents of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s young but brutal leader.
The women did refer to themselves as “citizen diplomats,” and some of the accusations leveled at the activists have some merit. It’s unreasonable to think that the North Korean women they met with had not been vetted by the government, and the decision to visit the birthplace of Kim il-Sung – the founding father of North Korea and Kim Jong Un’s grandfather – was probably not the best choice. One former South Korean politician made the observation:

Lee Dong-bok, a former MP, criticized a visit they made to Kim Il-sung’s birthplace. “I don’t like the way these ladies participate in this kind of propaganda event,” he said. “They are useful idiots for the North Korean regime.”
While it may be a bit naive to take the fact that both North and South Korea apparently did not have an objection to a “human rights” clause that was included in the women’s petition to make the crossing, Steinem may be right that this is progress, albeit a tiny amount. At the very least, it means that the women that participated in this event can go home and tell the stories of some women from the Hermit Kingdom.

May 27, 2015, 12:51:28 PM
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Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2015, 12:51:28 PM »
May 26: Women Cross DMZ say next year they’ll try to go from South to North Korea (Hankyoreh)
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After WomenCrossDMZ sent a message of peace by crossing from North to South Korea via the DMZ on May 24, the group announced on May 25 that it will be working to organize a second crossing of the DMZ next year, this time from South to North Korea.
“We are currently discussing the idea of holding WomenCrossDMZ each year around International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament on May 24 until a peace treaty is signed,” said Vana Kim, a member of the WomenCrossDMZ Executive Committee. Kim was speaking at the 2015 International Women’s Peace Symposium which took place at Seoul City Hall on Monday.
“Next year, we are considering the idea of going up from South Korea to North Korea,” Kim said.

May 27, 2015, 02:11:53 PM
Reply #9

Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2015, 02:11:53 PM »
I wish I had brought my tripod and filmed every speech. Instead, I just held the camera, stopped and started recording quite a few times, and often used my phone to check Facebook.

The first two videos show an all male group of North Korean defectors:

North Korean Defectors Protest Christine Ahn's DMZ Peace March Part 1

North Korean Defectors Protest Christine Ahn's DMZ Peace March Part 2

The next two videos feature female defectors. Again, apologies for not recording the entirety of their speeches:

NK Defector Protests Christine Ahn's Peace March

Former NK Army Officer Protests Christine Ahn's DMZ Peace March


May 27, 2015, 02:30:04 PM
Reply #10

Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2015, 02:30:04 PM »
May 26: Koreas’ Peace Symposium pushes for more engagement (Nk News)
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While some defectors protested outside, one however drew attention to the controversy surrounding the event when she stood up and criticized the group, calling for them to help send rice across the border.

“I escaped from North Korea 18 years ago, and I want to visit North Korea with rice, for the residents who are starving now,” Lee Ae Ran, who works at the Institute of Traditional North Korea food told NK News.

The emotionally charged questions directed at one of the panels caused some confusion in an otherwise peaceful event, with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leyma Bbowee demanding the Lee be passed a microphone.

“It was too hard to get opportunity to express my opinion. The relevant people suppressed me, and it was not peaceful at all,” Lee said.
WomenCrossDMZ took ‘boilerplate’ propaganda march in N. Korea: Observers (NK News)
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WomenCrossDMZ peace activists were taken on a “boilerplate” propaganda march of Pyongyang by a body well-known for cultivating relations with North Korea sympathizer groups, observers said Tuesday.

Instead of being an example of “citizen-to-citizen diplomacy,” the North Korean hosts of the WomenCrossDMZ delegation would have facilitated it “for domestic propaganda reasons,” said Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the U.S. Korea-Institute in Washington, D.C.

“The Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, or ‘Taemun’ as it is known in the DPRK, is the group that ran (Christine) Ahn’s ’march’ and they are the same people that handle Alejandro (Cao de Benos) and manage his programs,” Melvin said.

Cao de Benos is the controversial founder of the Korea Friendship Association (KFA), a group known for sycophantic views of the DPRK leadership that conducts regular propaganda tours of North Korea with the CCRFC.

“This kind of program has been going on for decades,” said Melvin. “Nothing special about this one except the ‘caliber’ of participants is much higher than Alejandro could ever manage.” ...

May 28, 2015, 01:47:41 PM
Reply #11

Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2015, 01:47:41 PM »
Marching Towards Peace in Korea (Tim Shorrock for Politico)
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... But their visit to North Korea incited harsh critiques from some journalists and a vocal community of activists within and outside Korea who oppose any contacts with the militaristic regime of Kim Jong Un....

Those criticisms were misplaced, said Daniel Pinkston, an Air Force veteran and long-time North Korea observer for the International Crisis Group. If North Korea is ever to change, Pinkston says, North Koreans need to change their thinking. ...

As the press conference drew to a close, a Korean reporter began loudly berating Christine Ahn, one of the organizers of the march. Earlier that week, South Korean newspapers and the Associated Press had reported that Rodong Shinmun, the daily newspaper published by the North Korean Workers Party, had quoted Ahn praising Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather. Ahn told me (full disclosure: she is a friend of mine) later that she had said no such thing, and had demanded a retraction and apology from the Kim government. ...

With that, a barrage of questions began, mostly from men, and some hostile. What did they think about human rights in North Korea? Was it true that members of the group had praised the North Korean government? Doesn’t your visit give support to the regime of Kim Jong Un? Just before the women’s arrival, several North Korean defectors shouting slogans (“Women Cross DMZ are puppets of Kim Jong Un”) were removed from the area by South Korean police.

The foreign press focus on their critics disheartened the participants. “There’s a kind of unconscious sexism that women are naive,” said Suzy Kim, a professor of Korean history at Rutgers University who was a member of the delegation. They were also disappointed by the response of the South Korean government. ...

One of the most beautiful moments came when they unfurled a giant quilt sewn by some of the participants and women from both North and South Korea. Quilts, Ahn told me, are a “woman’s art form in Korea” and were often used by women to wrap their belongings when they were forced to flee war-torn cities in both North and South. “It carries symbolic value of Korean women to cover and heal the divided peninsula with a message of peace.”

Later, Ahn said, she had a dream about the South, where she was born (her parents brought her to the United States when she was three). In the dream, people came to cross the border and there was “a light,” she recalled. “I saw a circle of women stirring a big pot, pouring with a big ladle as light flowed down the road. I woke up and I thought, ‘women will end the Korean War." ...

Still, there was one thing that gave her confidence in the future: “they laughed.” Steinem said she shared several jokes with her official interpreter. Once, when she asked about a sign on the street, her guide told her it said something about the Great Leader. “I said, ‘what a surprise,’ and she laughed.” It’s through such human connections, she said, that mutual trust can be built.

The women will keep pressing the issue with all governments involved, said Steinem. Speaking of her visit to both sides of the conflict, she said “we had real human connections. There’s nothing like women sitting down in a circle and telling each other stories. That is what happened.”


May 27: The Failure of Women Cross DMZ (Korean Expose)

July 19, 2015, 12:32:11 PM
Reply #12

Offline Peter

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Re: Christine Ahn & Gloria Steinem’s North Korea Peace Walk
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2015, 12:32:11 PM »
June 25: North Korea Celebrates ‘Hate America’ Month (The New York Post)

July 7: How North Korea’s Marchers for Peace Became Fellow Travelers (Foreign Policy)
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The Nobel Laureates and prominent activists who recently crossed into North Korea showed a shocking lack of sympathy for the North Korean people.
July 15: Coming Under ‘Fire’ at Korea’s DMZ (Consortium News)
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When we began our project “Women Cross the DMZ,” we knew the landmines in the DMZ would be nothing compared to the explosions of anger, vitriol and hate from those who oppose any contact with North Korea.

Some U.S. and South Korean government officials, academics, media talking heads and paid bloggers would have their knives out for any group that dared challenge the dangerous status quo on the Korean peninsula. No surprise that the knives have been attempting to slice away at the remarkable worldwide publicity our trip to both North and South Korea created
She "knew" that the landmines would be nothing compared to some critical blog posts, articles, and a few elderly protesters with rude signs? Unless some of those elderly (and admittedly) vocal protestors tore the legs off some of the marchers, I don't think she actually knows what landmines are. And she was certainly never in danger of accidentally stepping on a landmine.

To use the word "remarkable" to describe the worldwide publicity shows she's quite deluded. She also forgot to mention NK defectors in her list of critics. Not surprised. Again, the cultic mindset is evident. A failure to acknowledge legitimate criticisms coupled with an exaggerated sense of importance and bravery. She definitely partook of the Kool Aid on offer.

July 24: WomenCross DMZ Part 1: Marching For Peace, Failing North Koreans (Craig Urquhart for NKNews)

July 29: WomenCross DMZ Part 2: When ‘Peace’ With North Korea Hurts People (Craig Urquhart for NKNews)