Women cross DMZ

In May 2015, Christine Ahn traveled to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea for a peace walk to call for a final end to the Korean War.

Christine AhnWhen the day came, Christine Ahn (PolSci’98) grappled with mixed emotions.

In May 2015, she traveled to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea for a peace walk organized by Women Cross DMZ, a group she founded to foster peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Ahn, an American citizen who was born in South Korea and lives in Hawaii, and 30 other women activists planned to cross the two-mile-wide zone on foot to call for a final end to the Korean War. Fighting stopped in 1953, but the countries never signed a formal peace agreement.

Upon arrival, she learned of a possible acid attack by protestors.

“I recall this sinking feeling of being so excited to see my three-year-old daughter and husband, who had traveled from Honolulu to meet me at the other side of the DMZ, but being terrified that they might be the victim of such an attack,” she said.

Ahn decided to walk anyway — at the front of the line.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland marched with her.

No one threw acid. The peace walkers punctuated their symbolic stroll by rallying with thousands of other supporters, then convened in Seoul for a women’s peace symposium.

With no formal Korean peace agreement signed yet, Ahn forges on, with Maguire and many others at her side.

“[Her] work of bringing Korean women [from both] North and South and international women together for dialogue has shown the importance of women and civil community in peacemaking,” Maguire told the Coloradan.

Encouragement helps. After the walk, Ahn faced public accusations of being under North Korean government influence. South Korea placed her on a blacklist — via orders of then president Park Geun-hye, who is now imprisoned for political corruption — prohibiting her from traveling to her native country.

The Cold War is still raging on in South Korea,” said Ahn, who frequently comments on Korean affairs for the news media.

It was a busy summer in 2018 for her on that front, given President Trump’s controversial summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

She favorably viewed the June summit, arguing that peace between the U.S. and North Korea is vital for inter-Korean peace.

“For true peace and understanding to take place, it will take people-to- people engagement, from civil society to business,” she said. “That is my hope and what I have been long working for.”

Women cross DMZ

Photos by David Guttenfelder; Headshot courtesy of Christine Ahn