2019 YWCA Hanminjok Women Peace Pilgrimage ‘From Mt. Halla to Mt. Baekdu’: Mt. Taebaek Chapter
Diaspora. It is a word seldomly mentioned in our daily conversations. The dictionary defines the word as “the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from established or ancestral homeland”. The National YWCA of Korea’s Hanminjok (One Ethnic Group) Women Peace Pilgrimage was held under the theme of diasporato implement a new approach to the peace movement led by the women of diaspora. YWCA Hanminjok Women Peace Pilgrimage, a commemorative and peace movement project, was first held in YWCA’s 95thyear at Mt. Halla, located in the southernmost part in South Korea. By its 100thyear (2022), the participants aim to climb Mt. Baekdu, located in the northernmost part of North Korea. This year’s pilgrimage was held in Mt. Taebaek and it was hosted and supervised by Seoul YWCA.
The pilgrimage was held from September 30 to October 2 as South Korean women, North Korean defectors, Koreans from China, Koryo-in, and Korean Americans were present with hearts longing for a peaceful unification of the country. Even before the bus departed for Mt. Taebaek, songs were sung related to the theme ‘peace’. In the welcome remarks by President YooLim Lee of Seoul YWCA, “The Hanminjok Diasporais Hanminjokbut, at the same time, it has a cultural diversity. Therefore, I look forward to their important role in the peace and coexistence of East Asian countries and the unification of the Korean peninsula.”
On October 1, the second day, the peace pilgrims started their journey to Mt. Taebaek. While climbing the mountain, the participants had to respect absolute silence for as long as an hour and 20 minutes to sincerely pray for a peaceful unification. The pilgrims rejoiced after reaching Cheon-jae-dan (1560m) and recited the Prayer for Women Peace that hopes for the peace within the Korean peninsula. On the same night, the pilgrims listened to the lecture and organized their thoughts on real matters such their readiness and willingness to make room and sacrifice to create harmony with the North Koreans as a Hanminjok.
The event concluded with Seoul YWCA passing on the “Peace Patchwork (with Korean traditional design)” to Gwangju YWCA which will be the host of the Women Peace Pilgrimage next year. The peace pilgrimage of YWCA will continue on as we expand peace within ourselves to our community, to our diaspora, and to North Korea.
During 2019 Asia YWCA Regional meeting, the participants visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and learned about how Korea is the only divided country in the world. They also understood the importance of peace in the Korean peninsula as it is has significance in the global peace as well. Their participation at the DMZ, perhaps, already made them to be pilgrims on our pilgrimage for a peaceful unification.
As mentioned earlier, the current plan for the future pilgrimages is to eventually reach northernmost part of North Korea by 2022. However, the relationship between South and North Korea is currently unstable and it seems our opportunity to climb a North Korean mountain has little hope. Therefore, prayer and support is needed from our sisters in Asia and all over the world for the fulfillment of a genuinely peaceful unification