Important article. Dictatorships always turn these engagement stunts into propaganda without lessening repression at all. Paid, complicit, or simply ignorant, such people are enemies of the free world by lending PR and political aid to the worst regime on the planet. North Korea is a concentration camp with 25 million prisoners and it will be one of the greatest shames on our historical conscience that it has been allowed to exist among us for so long.
In May, a group calling itself Women Cross DMZ carried out a highly publicized “peace march” across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North Korea from South Korea. The thirty women activists called for an end to the Korean War — the two sides of the conflict signed an armistice, but not a peace treaty, in 1953 and remain technically at war — and argued that the crossing was a bold new way to push for peace and unification. Their goal of bringing female perspectives into a male-dominated discussion was an admirable one. And yet, the women became, willingly or unwillingly, shills for North Korea’s dictatorship.
Festivities began when the participants touched down in Pyongyang in mid-May to a warm welcome and a series of feasts. To the delight of its North Korean hosts, the delegation included such high-profile individuals as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, feminist leader Gloria Steinem, and filmmaker Abigail Disney; U.S.-based activist Christine Ahn planned the trip, with guidance from North Korean officials in New York and Pyongyang. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and eight other Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, endorsed the marchers and their stated quest to bring attention to the “forgotten” Korean War. The Women Cross DMZ campaign generated positive coverage from the world’s top news outlets including the Associated Press, the New York Times, and Time magazine, which wrote in their defense. Senior Brookings Institution official Katharine H.S. Moon gave a stamp of approval, while Politico published a fawning tribute from a friend of Ahn’s.