After a long flight and an even longer delay, Tiffany Flowers and Yasemin Zahra touched down in South Korea, bleary-eyed and well beyond the point of exhaustion. They were part of a delegation of 20 unionist and community activists to visit South Korea in May of last year. And, at this point, they didn’t know quite what to expect.
It was an unprecedented time in history. On April 27, the leaders of South and North Korea shook hands and walked over the military demarcation line, declaring “a new age of peace.”
But, Tiffany and Yasemin didn’t have much time to think about Moon and Kim — let alone the inviting pillow that might be waiting for them at the end of the day. Not three hours in, ears still underwater from the flight, Tiffany and Yasemin were in the middle of a rally, surrounded by thousands of workers shouting, “tujaeng” — “in struggle.”
Over the course of a week, they participated in the International Workers’ Day Rally on May Day, visited Han Sang-gyun, former President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and Lee Young-joo, former General Secretary of the KCTU, in prison, and visited the residents of Soseongri and Gimcheon, who’ve fought for the removal of the THAAD missile defense system.
Tiffany and Yasemin told me that in the villages, they were greeted by a group of very old women who are the “dedicated THAAD protestors.” The older women protest because younger people have to leave the village each day for work. They said, “kids gotta work, we gotta fight.”
And if there’s one thing Tiffany and Yasemin brought home from their trip. It’s that fight. We had a lot of fun during this interview (you might be able to tell) but these women are the definition of strength. And their work to build bridges across borders and disciplines is an example of person-to-person diplomacy at its best.
I was honored to have the chance to sit down and hear more about their trip. Click through the photos below for our interview.