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Gloria Steinem And Nobel Winners Cross Korean Border For Peace

Activists crossed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Sunday that divides South and North Korea by bus, after being denied permission to walk across the area.

Posted on May 24, 2015, at 10:33 p.m. ET

Woman activists — including Gloria Steinem and two Nobel Peace laureates — crossed the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in what they said was a landmark event in the effort for peace.

Gloria Steinem speaks during the welcoming ceremony for Women Cross DMZ at Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea.
Ahn Young-joon / AP

Gloria Steinem speaks during the welcoming ceremony for Women Cross DMZ at Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea.

The DMZ is a heavily fortified two-mile wide area between North and South Korea that is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world.

Ahn Young-joon / AP

The event was organized by Women Cross DMZ to mark the 70th anniversary of Korea's division into two separate states in 1945 by the United States and The Soviet Union, which precipitated the Korean War in 1950.

Even though the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953, the two countries are still technically at war since they did not sign a peace treaty.

South Korean activists attend the welcoming ceremony for Women Cross DMZ in South Korea.
Ahn Young-joon / AP

South Korean activists attend the welcoming ceremony for Women Cross DMZ in South Korea.

North Korea had originally granted the group permission to march across the zone, but later said they could only start on the northern side of the DMZ and then would be required to cross by bus.

Ahn Young-joon / AP

After the march started on North Korea's side, a South Korean bus was allowed to cross the demarcation line and pick the activists up and transport them over the border back into South Korea, the Associated Press reported.

The group had wanted to walk through Panmunjom, where the armistice was signed in 1953 and which is seen a symbolic truce village.

"We have accomplished what no one said can be done, which is to be a trip for peace, for reconciliation, for human rights and a trip to which both governments agreed," said the 81-year-old Gloria Steinem, who is the honorary co-chair of the Women Cross DMZ group, which is calling for a permanent peace treaty in the area, according to the New York Times.

The group included 30 women from 15 countries, including Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Maguire, from Northern Ireland, and Leymah Gbowee, from Liberia.

Gloria Steinem, sixth right in front, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Maguire second from right, Leymah Gbowee, third from right, and other activists march to the Imjingak Pavilion with South Korean activists along the military wire fences.
Lee Jin-man / AP

Gloria Steinem, sixth right in front, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Maguire second from right, Leymah Gbowee, third from right, and other activists march to the Imjingak Pavilion with South Korean activists along the military wire fences.

The woman walked with banners and sang on the North Korean side as they approached the first checkpoint leading to the DMZ.

Kim Kwang Hyon / AP

Women activists held a press conference upon their arrival from North Korea, at the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, South Korea, near the border village of Panmunjom, Sunday.

Ahn Young-joon / AP

"This is about human relationships, this is about us seeing our common humanity in each other," Mairead Maguire said at a press conference on the southern side of the inter-Korean border.

A banner depicting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a pig was displayed in Paju, South Korea.
Ahn Young-joon / AP

A banner depicting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a pig was displayed in Paju, South Korea.

Just south of the DMZ, the group met up with a large group of South Korean activists, where they held a rally.

Ahn Young-joon / AP

The group of woman activists was also met by around 500 conservative protesters, who oppose Women Cross DMZ, and held signs that said "get out" and "go to hell," Reuters reported.

A woman holds a banner with a picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un against international women activists near the Unification bridge before activists arrive in South Korea.
Lee Jin-man / AP

A woman holds a banner with a picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un against international women activists near the Unification bridge before activists arrive in South Korea.

The New York Times reported that the conservative protesters from South Korea, some of whom were defectors from the North, cited reports in the state-run North Korean news that quoted some of the visitors as praising North Korean leaders.

They said these reports proved they were being used as propaganda tools by the North, but organizers said none of the visitors had said what was reported by the North Korean media.

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