The need for dialogue

If history has taught us anything, it is that isolating people only alienates them. Coercing governments backfire. Engagement is the best, the only, policy for achieving lasting peace.

Our women’s walk for peace springs from this clear lesson. Its goals are simple: end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 ceasefire with a permanent peace treaty. It also seeks to reunite separated families and ensure that women are involved at all levels of the peace-building process.

In recent years, we have seen a growing academic and political consensus around the power and importance of engagement. We have witnessed the Obama administration secure diplomatic breakthroughs with Iran and Cuba, which have the possibility of de-nuclearization and improving human rights. These efforts, not unlike our international women’s peace walk between North and South Korea, stem from a fundamental belief in diplomacy and conversation. This spirit of engagement has deep historical roots and has worked to topple the Wall in Berlin, and when led by women, has succeeded in ending violent conflict in Northern Ireland and Liberia.

Isolationist voices will remain. Invariably, they argue that any attempt to converse with repressive regimes is an apology for that repression. This is wrongheaded. And the consequences of repeating this mistake are simply too great.

In 1994, as President Clinton contemplated a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, the Pentagon estimated that such an attack could result in 1.5 million casualties in the first 24 hours. This was before North Korea had developed nuclear weapons. Then U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, James Laney, concluded, “One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War. A peace treaty would provide a baseline for relationships, eliminating the question of the other’s legitimacy and its right to exist. Absent such a peace treaty, every dispute presents afresh the question of the other side’s legitimacy.”

This women’s peace walk has already succeeded in bringing much-needed international attention to the devastating human cost of the unresolved Korean War, especially to women, children and families. We walk to build bridges, women to women, family to family, government to government. In so doing, we also invite all concerned to imagine a new future for Korea.

Mairead Maguire
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
Honorary Co-Chair

Gloria Steinem
Author and Activist
Honorary Co-Chair

 

Women Cross DMZ