Women for Peace Across the DMZ
Last weekend I had the privilege of being one of four panelists at a forum entitled, “A World of Women for World Peace” hosted by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson from Dallas, Texas. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has more than four decades of service advocating for peace all around the world. Under the Bush administration, she was part of a special envoy to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the North and South Korean border for three country talks between the Koreas and Japan. She also has long-standing peace work in Africa, and prior to our forum, she had just returned from a trip to Taiwan. This year she chose for the forum to emphasize “The Role of Women in Peacebuilding across the DMZ”.
The forum took place on Saturday, April 12th in Thanksgiving square located in downtown Dallas and commemorated the one-year anniversary of the meeting between President Moon and Chairman Kim at the DMZ. Four panelists presented four unique perspectives on the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Topics of discussion included a brief history of North and South Korea, an overview of the human rights issue, a review of peace-making pursuits, and a preview of what needs to be done in the future to ensure long-lasting peace between North and South Korea. All topics emphasized the impact that women have in civil society and was presented by an all-woman panel.
The most encouraging aspect of the forum was the advocacy for peace. Not only were all the panelists in agreement to work towards peace but all those attending were also focused on a peaceful resolution for the Korean Peninsula. Being recognized as one of the most effective legislators in Congress, Congresswoman Johnson emphasized how women play a unique role in peace-making efforts. Her late husband, who was a Korean War veteran, influenced Congresswoman Johnson’s inspiration to advocate for peace not only in various international settings but also within our own country’s borders. Communication and education are key areas that women can affect, she explained.
As part of the panel, peace-advocate, Ann Wright, presented the honorable efforts of “Women Cross the DMZ” for the Korean Peninsula. In 2015, thirty women leaders from all around the world formed Women Cross the DMZ. The group received permission from North Korea, South Korea, and the United States to cross the heavy-armed border between the two Koreas. They marched through the DMZ all the way to Pyongyang and back to Seoul. To symbolize reconciliation between North and South Korea, a large blanket was quilted among the three groups of women: South Korean, North Korean, and the International group of women. Women Cross the DMZ’s goals include tangible peace-building steps on the Korean Peninsula as well as lifting of broad-based sanctions that negatively impact humanitarian conditions in North Korea.
As the final panelist, I presented on Ignis Community’s humanitarian outreach in the DPRK, emphasizing our work for children with developmental disabilities in Pyongyang. Our milestones in establishing a contract with the Ministry of Public Health for the treatment of children with cerebral palsy in all ten Provincial Children’s Hospitals and all eleven Medical Schools in North Korea was presented as a case study for what is possible if non-profit organizations actively work in the DPRK. Then, we looked into future engagement with North Korea. Through the combined efforts of governmental and non-governmental organizations, it was presented that every province in North Korea has the potential of being impacted through humanitarian efforts. In fact, the 2012 mapping project done by Reah International already shows that every province in the DPRK is already beginning to benefit from various humanitarian organizations.
The most encouraging aspect of the forum was the positive outlook it presented on the future of the Korean Peninsula. Up to this point, it has primarily been Christian organizations or ethnically Korean-led organizations advocating for peace. It was refreshing to hear mainstream Americans conveying their desire for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Unbeknownst to us, women from all around the world as part of this “A World of Women for Peace” have been advocating for peace between North and South Korea for the past four years!