Stitching Korea Back Together
Thirty peace activists from 15 countries arrived in Beijing on May 17th. I knew 11 of the women before arriving but most of the women knew maybe one or two others and a few knew no one. Our work for peace and justice had taken very different paths and it was striking that many of those paths had not crossed. We spent the first day in the hotel conference room meeting each other and learning what we could about the Koreas.
Deann Borshay Liem introduced her crew who followed us for the next 10 days for the film she is making about the walk called "Crossings." As part of our education she screened her latest film, "Memory of Forgotten War," a painful look at the separated families inNorth and South Korea. We were all in tears at the end, with a deeper insight into the price of the war and the DMZ. Many of the delegation members had been working much of their lives on reuniting Korea. Now I realize what we learned then only scratched the surface about our role in Korea as American citizens.
The first day in Beijing ended with a delicious banquet a few blocks from the hotel at the Yunnan Restaurant which gave us a chance to walk in the streets of Beijing -- a bustling city, full of smells, noise, cars, taxis, horns, people, endless lights and signs. The streets were filled with young people as we walked back from the restaurant. This was a stark difference to what we found in Pyongyang.
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Tuesday our journey to North Korea began with a press conference at the hotel. UN Nobel Laureates Leymah Gbowee and Mairead Maguire, with the visionary and leader of our walk, Christine Ahn, shared our story and purpose. They took questions from the room full of reporters as we had to race to the airport on a bus. (By the end of the trip, film producer Abby Disney could be heard humming, "The wheels on the bus go round and round.") The North Korean airline was full, and I appreciated that the overhead bins were the largest I had ever seen. Checking our bags at the airport reminded me of flying to Cuba, with fellow travelers rolling in piles of large boxes covered in plastic.
From the time we landed in Pyongyang it felt as if we were back in the ‘50's. We walked down the stairs to the tarmac and across the airfield to a simple two-story gray building with little signage or bustle.
We had heard horror stories about going through immigration at the airport, threats of them taking our computers and phones, so I brought a totally stripped computer and Gay Dillingham had left her phone and computer at home. They only looked at a few computers and mostly to see if we had "bad" (whatever that meant) movies on them. They didn't really look at the phones, making me regret stripping mine of everything.
Again we boarded buses, and began our first ride through the streets of Pyongyang. I was shocked by all the tall apartment buildings and wide boulevards but more shocked by how empty it was; it felt like a ghost town. There were people but not enough to match all the buildings. And they walked with a purpose, mostly lone walkers and others on their bikes. So few cars for the 2 million I was told live in this city. It felt more like being in a small town. Sometimes all that was on a boulevard was our bus. A huge street for as far as you could see, the width every city planner longs for and few cars. There were more buses, and they seemed to always be packed, standing room only. The people on the buses were serious, focused, and I didn't see a lot of talking or laughing.
My translator pointed out a street that had been built in one year with beautiful high rises with a more modern, Soviet-style flair. They had been built for the University professors and included swimming pools, restaurants and gyms. She pointed at another building and said it is the highest building in the world. It didn't look like it to me, but I didn't argue. Later we drove under an arch that looked much like the Arc de Triomphe and I suggested that to her, she answered it was 10 meters taller.
Our hotel was on an island in the middle of the river that runs through Pyongyang, an ugly gray building with smallish windows, weather-damaged and desolate-feeling, with very few cars in the parking lot. We walked into a vast entry hall but we were the only ones there, again that uncanny sense of being in a ghost town. Check-in was fast and easy but it was hard to give up my passport, which they kept hostage until we got to the DMZ. I am sure it helped keep our behavior in check, even if it was not their intention. We were taking it all in with wonder and curiosity. Every detail was interesting. What was this place of the dark secrets?
We had a few minutes to run to our rooms and change for our welcome banquet, hosted by the Korean Committee for the Solidarity with the World's Peoples, part of the Cultural Foreign Relations Committee. We arrived at the hallway outside the banquet hall and were startled by the bright and formal dresses of our hosts. The ages ranged from over 80 to early 20's. We fell easily into relationship with the North Korean women, taking pictures and introducing ourselves. I got very excited by all the pink dresses; the waitresses were also in pink.
The banquet hall was madly formal. An enormous pastoral landscape mural filled the largest wall,marble floors, and a very elegantly set table,a huge room for the 6 tables of guests. Medea Benjamin sat at the exceptionally large head table with the director of the Cultural Foreign Relations Committee who had spent a lot of time in South America and so they were able to talk in Spanish. I sat with her deputy who had excellent English. The younger they were, the better their English. I learned they all take it in school, and there is more English than Chinese taught in North Korea. Medea's table was painfully formal, as was the entire room. Speeches were given, and it was all very polite. The dinner was amazing, too much but was excellent. The courses felt like they would never end: chicken, beef, duck, noodles and rice at the end along with the excellent kimchi that came with every meal, including breakfast. The young women at my table were in awe that I was so proficient at chopsticks; their chopsticks are thin and metal. I think everything about us was surprising them that night. None of them had met an American, and we were nice, funny, playful and interested in them. We were less afraid of them than I think they were initially of us. They were slower to open, it wasn't until the last two days they really opened up to me about their lives.
Our rooms were on the 31st and 38th floors and we discovered there actually were others in the hotel, not many, mostly businessmen from China and tourists from Hong Kong or Japan, but on the lower floors. They were a bit rundown and the smell of cigarettes filled the halls. The elevators were sketchy and stopped at your floor when they felt like it, and during the occasional blackout you were stuck in them for awhile. Coleen Baik walked up the 38 flights a few times, starting with the first blackout.
The next day we had a full schedule of things to see in and around Pyongyang. We started at Mangyongdae, the birthplace of Kim Il Sung, founder of the DPRK. We arrived along with thousands of school-age kids in uniforms with red scarves around their necks. They didn't seem as interested in us as we were in them. The line was longer than the eye could see, in a rough formation, they seemed to fall into formation like a dance when needed, and relax in it while waiting to move. There was an adult to every about 30 kids. They were very well-behaved and orderly but would relax into being kids.
The tour guide was hyper-serious and all of them had a way of speaking that was theatrical, lots of passion and uplifted sentences with heightened meaning. Kim Il Sung was the Che Guevara of Korea, he had fought for many years to free Korea from the Japanese occupation.
We were told over and over about the HUMBLE beginnings of the great leader, Kim Il Sung, and how he came to visit his parents who just wanted to stay in the humble small house and not follow him in the city. He continued to visit them until they died. It was all quite serious and included the laying of flowers at the doorway by the head of the Women's Union. Cameras were following us constantly from the North Korean media in addition to the two reporters, David Guttenfelder of NatGeo and Eric Talmadge of AP, who were connected to our delegation.
My interpreter had to keep telling me to pay attention, to quit taking photos and be quiet. I was not behaving as she felt I should. Didn't I understand this was the most sacred place in the country and I was to be in reverence? I told her I didn't share her reverence. The next day I had a new, older interpreter and I saw that the younger interpreter had been re-assigned to someone more well-behaved.
The park just outside the city where the house was situated was beautiful, green and well-cared-for. The grounds were lovely and the flowers were in bloom. We filed back in the buses and travelled to Kyongsang Kindergarden, which is known for training musical children. They have to compete to get in, so the level of mastery at a very young age was extraordinary. The children all performed at everything: Playing, drawing, dancing… it was all a performance and was painful to witness. Again they had little curiosity about us, which seemed strange for kids, no outreach to question us in anyway, or even to make eye contact. They were repetitive about their behaviors, they were performing at playing and not really ‘playing' in the sense of freedom and exploration. The musical performances were pitch-perfect, adorable and awe-inspiring.
We left a bit disturbed as it was hard to see these young kids so rigidly formalized and performing at such a young age. I felt myself longing for them to have a childhood, yet they seemed perfectly happy.
Lunch was at Okryu, the most famous noodle restaurant in Pyongyang. The line to get in was long, but we were whisked up stairs to a huge room with lines and lines of tables. Our section was cordoned off with barriers and large gold bowls with cold noodles were placed before us with lots of delicious things to stir into the noodles, including sauces to spice it even more.
We were scheduled to go to a Breast Cancer Research Institute, a maternity and children's hospital and a textile mill, but those of us on the communication team had to get back to the hotel to work on getting across the DMZ, talking to the South Korean organizing team, putting out a press release, doing a press conference and finding out how to get online. It was a wild afternoon; the press conference was in the cramped room of Christine Ahn, but it went well. Gloria Steinem and Christine answered all the questions about where we were going to cross, which was still a mystery, but we knew we would cross, we just needed the South Koreans to talk to the North Koreans. The North Koreans said "we can't let you cross at Panmunjomwithout an OK from the South Korean government, because if anything happens it is our responsibility and they want us to mess up." We were deep inside the relationship between North and South, or rather the non-relationship. We were told the two governments don't talk to each other. There had once been a phone line but it was now dead.
Gloria, Coleen and I went off with Mr. O (our hero and organizer) to see if we could get SIM cards for our phones. It was $250 for a very small amount of time. We all opted for the $250 card, as the next offering was $650 and we assumed we could manage on what felt already like too much money. On the way back to the hotel I watched my usage eat up as I just downloaded email. Oops. We continued to work on the crossing situation through dinner and then went to Christine's room (the only one with a DSL line) to see if could communicate with the South Korean women who were as unhappy as we were with the lack of clarity for Saturday's crossing. Each crossing presented problems and there needed to be clarity for planning. This is when I learned that the South Koreans weren't even signers on the 1953 Armistice and cease fire. It was the US representing the UN Command that signed on behalf of South Korea and 14 other nations. We think this was all about North and South Korea, but the signers were the US and North Korea, which signed on behalf of the Chinese People's Voluntary Army. It was a constant reminder how little people in the U.S. know about Korea and the war.
I had no luck with my computer and the DSL as Gmail, Twitter and Facebook were all blocked. I returned to my room to write a CODEPINK alert to put pressure on the US and finished by the time Alli McCracken got to the CODEPINK office in DC. Alli and I, with a spotty phone connection, finished an alert by the time we were to leave for the morning events, which meant I had about an hour of sleep. A New York Times reporter had called at 3:00 AM with angry questions about whether we were confronting North Korea on their Human Rights abuses. I replied that I have worked for 13 years to get the US to close Gitmo and to stop other human rights abuses in the US. The only way I knew to affect human rights abuses in North Korea was to do all I could to bring peace and reunification.
We left the hotel at 8:30 AM for the People's Cultural Palace where we met with about 100 North Korean women from different sectors and regions for the first session of the International Women's Peace Symposium on "women and peacebuilding." The speakers were potent. It was story after story of what they experienced in the Korean War, including a woman with no arms who told of how US Soldiers had chopped them off. They told these experiences powerfully, with emotion, memories and clarity. It felt like they had happened last month. Another told the story of the bombs dropping on her village. The head of a baby was blown off while her mother was in the fields. When she returned themothercarried the headless baby all through the town looking for her head and wailing. Each story felt more horrific than the last, all of us had tears streaming down our faces and shame rising in our hearts. I wanted to go hold each of them and say I was sorry. When they all finished, for almost 30 minutes we held each other, shared our shame and our sorrow, and hugged.
Hyung-Kyung Chung and the North Korean women brought out parts of a quilt made by North Korean women, South Korean women, Korean diaspora women, and international women. We turned to the sewing of the sides of the quilt together, the North Korean women eagerly sewing, each of them serious in the task, their desire for unification so palpable in that moment. I could feel it with each stitch. We were all helping to stitch Korea back together. Then spontaneously, the North Korean women started to sing "Tongil", a beautiful song of reunification that movements in North and South Korea sing and which we had been practicing on the bus and had become the anthem of our journey. It rang loud in the huge room of the Symposium, and the united voices of the delegation and the Korean women again brought tears and this time, joy and possibility.
It was a love fest by lunch time, we each went our separate ways to be reunited for our delegation presentations in the afternoon. Ours was to take place at the hotel with the great leaders' photoslooking over us. Mairead, Gloria, Leymah, Suzuyo and Medea were the afternoon speakers. The North Korean women listened intently and were impressed with their work for peace. The questions that followed from the North Korean women were smart and informative to both them and our delegation. It was really impressive to feel their confidence and willingness to ask uncomfortable questions. They were cut too short as we had to race off to a performance with dancing, singing and live orchestra. Our group was impressed with the artistry and skill of all the performance, but no one was more impressed than the North Korean audience. The North Koreans LOVED it; they were a fantastic audience and left chatting away. None of them left in a car. It was a vast parking lot with not one car. I watched as they walked across it to an opening onto a street and as the bus went around the corner you saw women in their traditional colorful long dresses, the men in their black suits with their children walking down the long boulevards to where they lived. They melted away into the neighborhood very quickly and again the streets were almost empty.
Friday we again boarded the buses, this time for a long ride to Mt Myohang, 95 miles west of Pyongyang for a picnic, stopping at the International Friendship Exhibition House on the way.
The Friendship House did me in. It is an 80,000-square-foot mausoleum, housing gifts presented to former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il since the ‘50's from a broad range of international leaders, from at least 100 countries. It was tiring, intimidating, endless and psychologically uncomfortable. The tour included a stop in a wing of the building with giant candelabras and inlaid marble floors as a waiting room to enter the most sacred sanctuary. Inside each room that led off the vast waiting area were the great leaders done in wax. The wax figures stood in pastoral landscapes; calm, peaceful, with gentle smiles on their faces. The crowd advanced and all bowed, I was told by my translator we were in a sacred room. We did this in 3 rooms, which included a wax figure of the wife of Kim Il Sung who had also been a revolutionary against the Japanese occupation for Korean freedom and mother of Kim Il Jong. My head was pounding by the time we exited through the gift shop. They served free tea at the gift shop so we would all stay and shop. The largest space in each gift shop seemed to be for the hundreds of book titles, many translated into English,written by Kim Il Sung.
The picnic helped to relieve the overwhelm from the Friendship house and we were surrounded by the beauty of nature. We were right on the bank of a gentle moving river. On the landing above us was a table beautifully set and reserved for the Russian businessmen who arrived about 30 minutes after us. My only concern was too much of the natural world had been paved over in roads and paths.
It was a relief to arrive at the home of King Tangun, the founder of the first Korean kingdom and a 2009 UNESCO designation biosphere reserve. The beauty was unencumbered and vast. As was the beauty and dignity at the Buddhist temple dating back a thousand years we also visited on the way home. We arrived back too late to do the scheduled craft shopping as the day had emotionally exhausted all of us, and it was time for our evening meeting and dinner, which usually took until 9:30 or 10:00. There was much to discuss about the next day's march and Sunday's crossing of the DMZ. We had just learned that South Korea had finally officiallyanswered North Korea through the South Korean Ministry of Defense to the Korean People's Army. They clarified that we would not be allowed to cross at Panmunjom, that we would need to cross at Kaesong, and that they would send a South Korean bus for us so we would not have to walk across with our bags. But there was still all the negative press we were getting globally to address, and details we still needed to confirm with the South Korean groups and how we were going to fit it all in.
Again we had to wake early and be ready to leave by 7:30 in the morning to march with the women of North Korea. Rumor had it that there were going to be 5,000 women.
We did arrive to at least 5,000 North Korean women in their Korean Princess dresses with an all-women marching band of about 100 that even included a few majorettes. It took my breath away and was a bit overwhelming as we stood below the 150 foot high women carved in marble holding a unified Korea. They really knew how to produce a march – I experienced march envy. Gloria, Leymah and Mairead delivered beautiful speeches as did the North Korean women. We took our places in rows of 5 behind our banners and marched to the end of Pyongyang and the rice fields. Instead of marching with us the women lined the march as we followed the marching band. It was beautiful. The women held wands with flowers at the top and they never stopped waving them and often waved at us with joy and hope with the other hand. We waved back. I suspended judgment and surrendered into the beauty and possibility of the moment.
The march ended at the buses and we were back on and off to a restaurant with a table full of gold dishes and an air of celebration and toasts, followed by the bus ride to Kaesong. Maybe it was the wine at lunch or maybe it was that there was only a day left together, but it was this bus ride where my translator began to really open up to me. She told me about meeting her future husband at college, how she didn't like him at first and his continued courting of her which took two years before she introduced him to her parents. She mentioned that they were very ‘progressive' so didn't expect to have any sway on her choice, but in meeting him they told her to continue her work for a few more years before deciding and she listened to them. He is also a translator but for businesses. They finally married and she told me how happy they were and that even though they both have jobs that take them away from each other a lot, their times together are sweet and if they both have to travel her mom takes care of their daughter. All the young women had a self-confidence and unflappability. They knew their jobs and took responsibility but also didn't feel like they had failed when I didn't behave. The answers to my questions revealed a deep commitment to the collective but an emphasis on self-reliance. They each asked me questions including what did I think about or what stories had I been told about North Korea before I came. What did I think of them now? Over the next two days I spent the bus time with one of my three translators, we could feel the end coming and wanted more of each other. I asked one of them what they longed for in the re-unification and she said for the sadness of the separation to end so her country would be happier. I asked her about her dreams for herself and she said she just wanted to live ‘happily ever after.' I looked forward on the bus to Abby Disney and her daughter Olivia, and how funny it was that North Korea is full of Disney movies and here Walt Disney's relatives were on this trip with us. When I asked the younger of the women who she talked to, who she shared her deepest thoughts with, she said her mother. She told me she often got very sad and her mother was able to help her through the sadness, but sometimes she had to take her to the doctor, a doctor who talked with her and helped even more. Their stories were about the immediate, about the joy of their work, their need to be better with their English, time with friends having picnics, cooking, time with family and lots and lots of work. They said they normally work 8 hours a day but with us it was at least 12. All three told me our visit had changed their lives and they wanted us to come back with more friends.
Because North Korea had been carpet-bombed by the US between 1950-1953, all the buildings were from then or later. I learned from Suzy Kim, the Korean historian on our delegation from Rutgers University that a U.S. General testified in Congress during the Korean War that there is NOTHING left to bomb in North Korea. Kaesong had been part of South Korea during the war but when the final lines were drawn for the Armistice, it was moved to North Korea. We arrived at a taste of what Korea was like before the war. The inn we stayed at was eighteenth century with small rooms on courtyards. It was pleasant, beautiful and human scale, which was a stark difference to Pyongyang. We arrived just in time for dinner served on low tables with cushions on the floor. The evening gathering was quick as all we really needed was to run through the next day which was tight, we had to arrive in South Korea by noon to be on time for the event the South Korean women had produced.
It was another early morning, but we were all a buzz, it was really going to happen, we were going to cross the DMZ. Christine's dream was going to come true. It was more than two years ago when Christine Ahn dreamt of lights coming down the river that unites Korea, she followed the lights up the river to a circle of women stirring a pot and pouring the contents into bowls, lighting them and sending them down the river. She woke knowing it was going to be the women who could reunite Korea and had worked since then for this moment. She was already in tears as we boarded the buses.
Our first stop was the center of Kaesong for another march with the women, a bit smaller without the marching band but the women were also in their colorful traditional Korean best and they lined the road as we walked to the end of town 5 in a row behind our banners. It all went too fast as we were rushed back into the buses for P'anmunjom and the building where the Armistice was signed and where the original is on display. There had been much discussion about unfurling the quilt and singing here but once we were inside and could feel the end of our time in North Korea and South Korea so near, we couldn't help ourselves. We circled the quilt and sang. The soldiers didn't try to stop us, they listened and then joined us in our buses, thanking us and asking us to do all we could for reunification. As we stood outside I realized the building on the South Korean side was just a few hundred feet away and there was no wall, just two guards on the side. It was tempting. We went to the top of the visitors' center and onto a balcony where we looked across at the South Korean visitors building, it was so close you could see their soldiers looking at the North Korean soldiers. This had gone on for 63 years, it was more than time to end this madness with a peace treaty and allow the 10 million Korean family members to be reunited. Standing there at that moment, the insanity of that many years of separation by something so meaningless came over me like a wave and I wept. Crying for all those who had already died and never seen their family members, crying for all those who still longed for and all those who had felt forgotten. It was really a crime scene. Why had this gone on so long?
The short trip to the Kaesong border crossing was full of tears. It became very real that we were leaving and we might not see each other again. When we arrived at the border crossing a South Korean bus was indeed waiting for us, a big one so we were brought back together at the crossing after being separated into two buses for the entire time in North Korea. Hugging, more tears, more hugging and waves of goodbye as we passed through the immigration station and into the waiting bus. The wave of sadness was quickly replaced by the excitement of arriving in South Korea and accomplishing what everyone had thought impossible. Soon after our crossing, we learned that Ban Ki Moon finally came out in support of our walk. The impossible has become possible to those in power because a woman had a dream and others joined her in it.
At CODEPINK we plan to launch a campaign to continue to educate and put pressure on Congress with a Congressional briefing in late Julyfor the Korea caucus and a campaign to end the sanctions on things like cosmetics by calling for the Koreas and US to Make Up!
On May 24, 2015, thirty international women peacemakers from around the world walked with Korean women, north and south, to call for an end to the Korean War and for a new beginning for a reunified Korea. We held international peace symposiums in Pyongyang and Seoul where we listened to Korean women and shared our experiences and ideas of mobilizing women to bring an end to violent conflict. We successfully crossed the 2-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) that separates millions of Korean families as a symbolic act of peace.
2015 marks the 70th anniversary of Korea's division into two separate states by Cold War powers, which precipitated the 1950-53 Korean War. After nearly 4 million people were killed, mostly Korean civilians, fighting was halted when North Korea, China, and the United States representing the UN Command signed a ceasefire agreement. They promised within three months to sign a peace treaty; over 60 years later, we're still waiting.
Meanwhile, thousands of Korean elders die every year waiting on a government list to see their children or siblings after being separated by the DMZ. In North Korea, crippling sanctions against the government make it difficult for ordinary people to access the basics needed for survival. The unresolved Korean conflict gives all governments in the region justification to further militarize and prepare for war, depriving funds for schools, hospitals, and the welfare of the people and the environment. That's why women are walking for peace, to reunite families, and end the state of war in Korea.
- 4M people died in the Korean War of 1950-53, most of them Korean civilians.
- 10M families are still separated by the DMZ.
- 70M Koreans live in a state of war due to unresolved conflict.
- 60+ YRS after the war ended with a temporary cease-fire agreement, we're still waiting for a peace treaty.
- $1T is spent by USA, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea on militarization, fueled by unresolved conflicts.
Mairead Maguire is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her peaceful, nonviolent work on the ethnic/political conflict in Northern Ireland
Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, editor, feminist activist, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Christine Ahn is a columnist and organizer for peace and justice in the U.S., Korea, and Asia Pacific.
Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of CODEPINK, a women-led peace organization with 250 chapters across the USA.
Hyung-Kyung Chungis a professor of Interfaith engagement at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Gay Dillingham traveled with Governor Richardson on a peace-keeping mission to North Korea in 2010.
Suzy Kim isa professor of Korean history at Rutgers University, Suzy has advocated for human rights and peace in Korea and wrote Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950.
Vana Kim Hansen is a spiritual teacher with a PhD in education from Harvard, on a mission to create peace and love in the world.
Sung-Ok Lee is the assistant general secretary of United Methodist Women, the largest denominational faith organization for women with 800,000 members.
Ann Wright is a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the US war on Iraq. She now works globally with peace and social justice groups.
Jean Chung is a social activist based in Los Angeles working for peace and reconciliation of two Koreas and has leads Action for One Korea (AOK), a grass-root movement to spread the passion for reunified.
Jodie Evans is a longtime peace, environmental, women's rights and social justice activist. She co-founded CODEPINK.
Leymah Gbowee is the 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate and a Liberian peace activist, trained social worker and women's rights advocate. She uses her platform to advocate for human rights, peace, and security.
Erika Guevara is a feminist, Mexican-American human rights lawyer and Director for the Americas at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International.
Patricia Guerrero is a human rights lawyer and founder of Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas, which advocates for women displaced by Colombia's armed conflict and reparations in Colombia's transitional justice process.
Jane Jin Kaisen is a visual artist and filmmaker based in Copenhagen. She has dealt extensively with legacies of colonialism, war, militarism, transnational adoption and gender.
Deann Borshay Liem is a director, producer and distributor of independent documentaries, including First Person Plural, In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, and Geographies of Kinship - The Korean Adoption Story. She recently produced with Ramsay Liem Memory of Forgotten War.
M. Brinton Lykes is Professor of Community-Cultural Psychology and Associate Director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College.
Liza Maza is a former Philippine congresswoman who co-authored laws on women, including the Anti-Violence against Women and Children Act and the Magna Carta of Women. Liza is Chair Emerita of GABRIELA Women's Alliance and the International Women's Alliance, a global coalition of grassroots women's organizations.
Ann Patterson is a renowned peace activist from Northern Ireland and a member of Peace People.
Suzuyo Takazato founded Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence and helped create Okinawa's first rape crisis center to provide hotline and face-to-face counseling to victims of sexual violence. In 1995, her activism led to a large-scale protest by people of Okinawa against US military bases.
Kozue Akibayashi is a feminist researcher/activist and has worked on issues of gender and peace. She is a professor at Graduate School of Global Studies, Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, and a member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
Lisa Linda Natividad is an Associate Professor in the Division of Social Work at the University of Guam. She is also the President of the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice. She has delivered interventions to the United Nations on issues of militarization, colonization, and indigenous peoples' rights.
Ewa Eriksson Fortier has engaged in international humanitarian work for 40 years, beginning in 1976 by the end of the Vietnam War. For the past decade, Eva has focused on the consequences of the Korean War. She was the head of an international humanitarian organisation based in Pyongyang.