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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/22/15

Why I Am Walking In North and South Korea

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By *Gloria Steinem


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Each of us on this Peace Walk has different memories of the Korean War and the separation of people by this strip of land called the DMZ, depending on our age and place in the world.

As the oldest woman on this Peace Walk, I have childhood memories of World War II, and high school memories of one of my classmates who was about to be drafted into the Korean War. His father, who had fought in WWII, had experienced things so terrible that he killed his son and then killed himself rather than see his son go to war. I couldn't forget that. I remember trying to plan where my mother and I could go to be safe, should the Korean War spread into World War III, and submarines again lie off the coast of the United States, as German boats had done.

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I was thousands of miles away. I suffered nothing compared to those of you within combatant countries, but I say this to remind us that war and division anywhere affects people everywhere. And it goes long into the future. The Native Americans, the first people of the continent I live on, say that it takes four generations to heal one act of violence.

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I wanted to come on this Peace Walk, to bring my small support. Four years ago, I stood on the South Korean side of the DMZ, in a brand new railroad station that is a symbol of hope, but is empty and unused. Standing there made me realize the closeness of the other side; so close, I could see the buildings.

My country, too, was once divided by a Civil War that separated families and created a dead zone in the middle of our country. If that had remained, I would hope that people from here would come to help us. We have only to look at photographs of Earth from space to understand that we are all passengers on a fragile space ship.

I believe it's especially crucial that women help initiate and pursue peace efforts. For cultural reasons and a gender division that is also artificial, we don't have "masculinity" to prove, and so it's sometimes easier for us to make connections. In Ireland, it was the women who crossed the boundaries of religion and region to end violence. In my childhood, those divisions seemed hopeless, yet now Ireland is a peaceful country. Women also crossed lines of religions to unite against warlords in Liberia and bring about a peaceful election there.

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Now we also know from massive studies of modern nations that the biggest indicator of whether a country is violent within itself, or is willing to use military violence against another country, is not poverty, or access to natural resources, or religion, or even degree of democracy; it's violence against females. It normalizes all other dominance and violence because it's what we see first, perhaps even inside the family. It causes us to think the domination of one group by another is natural and inevitable. We are linked.

The Women's Peace Walk across the DMZ is a symbol of the possibility of unification, not only for North and South Korea, but also of peace between women and men, between religions, between economic classes.

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