Addressing international impasse with education, leadership and understanding
Christine Ahn awoke from a vivid dream in 2009 and exclaimed, “I know who will end the Korean War: It will be women.” Six years later, she and fellow leaders were taking steps toward her dream by organizing a women’s peace walk across the most militarized border in the world, the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. The peaceful demonstration cast new light on the Korean Peninsula, an international focal point since the unresolved Korean War. Not long after Ahn and advocates made headlines, she returned to CU Boulder as an INVST Community Studies alumna to talk with students about organizing peace and humanitarian delegations. From the Olympics to missile tests to peace deals, Korea has once again been in focus. With our school’s community leadership programs thriving, this is a critical time to revisit Ahn’s important work and words.
By Christine Ahn, INVST Community Studies alumna
Known as “the Forgotten War,” the Korean War was brutal. In just three years, nearly 4 million people were killed—mostly innocent civilians. The U.S. bombing campaign destroyed nearly 80 percent of the North. Just one year into the war, a U.S. general told the Senate “there are no more targets, everything is destroyed.” The fighting came to a halt when North Korea, China and the U.S., representing the U.N. Command, signed the 1953 armistice agreement. They promised to return in 90 days to hammer out a peace deal, but the peace deal went unsigned for more than 60 years.
"It was before the break of dawn, and I was wading in the river, chest high. As the sun rose over the horizon, a glow of light gently flowed down the river. It was people carrying candles in their palms, and that light then morphed into the most beautiful family reunifications, of elderly siblings clutching brothers and sisters they had not seen for a lifetime."
"I remember being moved to tears but wanting to keep going upriver to the source of the light. So I waded up the river, and that’s when I came upon a circle of women."
I began ruminating about how women will do this. I received a fellowship to research the efforts of Korean women to build peace. I learned the first meeting of North and South was convened by a Japanese woman, which drove home the important role of women from outside the peninsula during times of inter-Korean impasse. Then I found inspiration for a peace walk when five New Zealanders crossed the DMZ by motorbike. I thought, ‘If they can do it, we can, too.’ I set off to make this dream come true.