UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Women leaders from 38 countries urged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday to fulfill a promise he made in 2007 to start a peace process that would turn the armistice that ended the Korean war into a peace treaty before his term ends on Dec. 31.
The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. As a result, the border between North Korea and South Korea is the most heavily fortified in the world.
A letter signed by 132 women and 22 South Korean women's and peace organizations urged Ban to initiate the peace process, with the U.N. Security Council, and aim to conclude it by 2018, "the 70th anniversary of Korea's division into two separate states."
At a press conference announcing the letter, several women activists stressed that Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, should lead the process of bringing formal closure to the world's longest standing war before he leaves.
"The secretary-general has the opportunity to build on his own legacy as the world's most important peacemaker," said Cora Weiss, president of the Hague Appeal for Peace. "Mr. Ban can demonstrate that nuclear threats can be met with a diplomatic recipe of engagement, lifting sanctions, and promise of trade and aid, in exchange for North Korea giving up its nuclear ambition."
The letter was sent by Women Cross DMZ, which in May 2015 led a peace walk across the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea to spotlight the need for a peace treaty and unite divided families.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Tuesday that the U.N. is examining a letter the group wrote to the secretary-general on Aug. 2. "I believe that they have now since written another one, but we are aware of their request and are looking, with our offices, to follow up," he said.
Among the signatories of the letter are Nobel Peace laureates Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, American women's rights activists Gloria Steinem and Eve Ensler, UNESCO goodwill ambassador Kim Phuc, who as a young girl was shown in a photo fleeing from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War that sparked global outrage, and Valerie Plame, who was exposed in 2003 as a CIA operative by officials in then President George W. Bush's administration.