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Gloria Steinem's WomenCrossDMZ Korea Peace March Cancels Symbolic Crossing

A group of female peace activists, including Gloria Steinem, canceled plans to march through a symbolic crossing point between North and South Korea.

Gloria Steinem, two Nobel laureates and other peace activists said Friday they were forced to cancel plans to march through a symbolic crossing point between North and South Korea.

The group of around 30 women, called WomenCrossDMZ, said they would still conduct the march across the demilitarized zone on Sunday. However, they will avoid the tense site of Panmunjom where the agreement ending the Korean War was signed in 1953.

Despite its name, the demilitarized zone — or DMZ — is one of the most heavily-armed borders on the planet. Because the 1950-3 war ended in an armistice rather than a truce the Koreas are effectively still at war.

Activist Gloria Steinem, center right, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, center left, visit the birthplace of North Korea's late leader Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday.Kim Kwang Hyon / AP

While the march has been sanctioned by both North and South, WomenCrossDMZ warned Wednesday it may have to change its plans to cross at Panmunjom because the South said it could not guarantee the group's safety.

Seoul has said the event should take place in a way that does not spark unintended tension on the peninsula, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

In a statement Friday, the group blamed the decision to change on an "overheated reaction" from South Korea and "certain members of international delegations."

The statement added: "It is such an unfortunate situation that their remarks … compromise the overarching goal of this historical event and its potential benefits on South Korean society."

Instead of crossing at Panmunjom — which is under constant watch by armed personnel from both sides — the group will now cross along the Gyeongui railway line.

As well as U.S. feminist icon Steinem, the group includes two Nobel laureates: Mairead Maguire, from Ireland, and Leymah Gbowee, from Liberia.

The group arrived in the North Korean capital Pyongyang on Tuesday and have been touring hospitals and factories ahead of the march. It says it aims to "entrench the seedlings of peace into the Korean Peninsula with the principles of dialogue and unity, forgiveness and reconciliation."