On Thursday North Korean state newspaper ran a photo and an article about the 30 women delegates touring the designated birthplace of Kim Il Sung. Photo by Rodong Sinmun/Yonhap
SEOUL, May 21 (UPI) -- North Korean defectors requested an international group of women activists that includes Gloria Steinem be stopped from crossing the DMZ after North Korea claimed two of the activists outwardly praised Kim Il Sung.
An article in Thursday's Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's state newspaper, said the Women Cross DMZ delegates toured Mangyongdae, the designated birthplace of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung on Wednesday.
According to North Korea, during the tour Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire said she was "highly touched" after learning about Kim Il Sung's revolutionary life.
Women Cross DMZ international coordinator Christine Ahn also was quoted as extolling the late North Korean leader for his "numerous achievements" including "crushing the forces of Japanese imperialism and liberating the country."
South Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily said the veracity of the quotes could not be confirmed.
Critics in South Korea said the 30 activists are being used as propaganda pawns by Pyongyang – a common North Korea practice when foreigners visit the country, according to Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in South Korea.
The activists have requested Seoul's permission to cross into the truce village of Panmunjom, but Seoul has opposed the idea, suggesting they cross from a westerly route near the North Korean city of Kaesong.
North Korean defectors said they are protesting the activists in response to the news of their alleged remarks at Mangyongdae. South Korean television network YTN reported the anti-Pyongyang campaigners said North and South Koreans are being cheated of justice, and urged the women delegates to meet with Kim Jong Un and petition for the protection of human rights in North Korea.
The 30 women are scheduled to walk across the DMZ on Sunday.