Women activists cross DMZ between North and South Korea.

An international group of female activists crossed the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea on Sunday in an effort to bring attention to the need for peace between the two nations.The group of about 30 members, called WomenCrossDMZ, includes feminist Gloria Steinem and two Nobel Peace laureates, Mairead Maguire of Ireland and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia.

On Sunday morning, a bus took them from the North Korean side across the Demilitarized Zone that has separated the two Koreas for more than half a century.The women, who had originally planned to walk across the zone, arrived at South Korean immigration. Afterward, they were expected to hold a news conference and then walk to a ceremony in a park near the border. They said they spoke with women during their time in North Korea.

The group says women need to be involved in the peace-building process. It calls for reuniting families divided by the Korean War, and replacing the 1953 armistice with a permanent peace treaty, demands similar to those made by the North Korean government.


Criticism from other activists


Other activists have criticized the event, saying the group is overlooking major problems faced by women under Kim Jong Un's authoritarian rule.

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"It is absolutely outrageous that they completely ignore the suffering of the North Korean people, especially North Korean women," said Suzanne Scholte, head of the North Korea Freedom Coalition."If they truly cared, they would cross the China-North Korea border instead, which is actually more dangerous now than the DMZ," Scholte said ahead of the crossing.

North Korean women who cross into China often become victims of human trafficking, ending up forced to work in the sex industry or sold as brides to rural Chinese men.

Steinem says the group is trying to take action where government have failed."I feel this is very much our spiritual and political duty to be part of every peace table," Steinem said at a news conference last week. "It has often been the case that citizenry -- women and men -- can make progress when it is not possible for the officials to be able to meet at that moment in time."


Sympathy for North Korea?


Christine Ahn, one of the events organizers, has been called a North Korea sympathizer -- an allegation she denies.

"Basically that is a Cold War, McCarthyist mentality," she told CNN in April. "And that kind of framework has enabled Korea to remain divided. I am pro-peace. I am pro-engagement. I am pro-dialogue. I am pro-human rights."

She says she is for ending "the state of war on the Korean peninsula."

Her critics include Human Rights Foundation's Alex Gladstein, who accused Ahn of "whitewashing the North Korean regime for more than a decade, always excusing the Kims, saying they aren't so bad, and blaming North Korea's problems on South Korea and the U.S."

Observers say that a group being allowed by both North and South Korean authorities to hold this kind of event is unusual but not unheard of.

A group of bikers from New Zealand crossed the border in 2013, and another group drove through the DMZ last year.

News Courtesy: www.cnn.com