Chinese border village takes steps against North Korean refugees

By Michael Rank

A Chinese report has highlighted how villagers on the North Korean border live in fear of desperate North Korean refugees who rob and steal from them.

The villagers have launched a new internet monitoring system to guard against the refugees who frequently escape across the Tumen river, according to the Chinese-language report.

Inhabitants of Sanhe, near the town of Longjing in Jilin province, were in constant fear of “illegal border-crossers who would rob, steal and cause disturbances” until, in cooperation with the police, they installed an alarm system to warn each other of possible infiltrators.

Local police chief Wang Zeqiang is quoted as saying the system was “rather primitive” when it was first launched in 2003, consisting of a red light that people would raise in front of their houses when illegal border-crossers were detected, but three years later it was upgraded to a more sophisticated alarm system. Last month it was upgraded further, involving the internet and mobile phones. The report gives no details although it says that apart from increasing border security the internet also gives the villagers access to farming and scientific information.

The Sanhe area, which covers 182 sq km, has only 1,600 inhabitants, 90% of whom are ethnic Korean, and most young people have left the area to seek work elsewhere, including South Korea and Japan. (A separate report shows photos of another border village, Nanping near Helong, which has similarly been blighted by young people leaving the area. Only 1,700 people still live there out of an original population of 4,000, while the primary school has five teachers and only three children).

“This journalist walked around [Sanhe] for over 10 minutes and only saw old people, women and children. But the Sanhe area faces danger from across the river,” the report says.

To illustrate the threat posed by refugees, it tells how in spring 2003 a North Korean woman in her 70s and her son in his 40s were killed in a border incident in Sanhe, and also mentions how in 2004, after the red light system had been installed, villagers seized a North Korean border guard who had crossed the river and begged for food from a farmer who had just slaughtered some animals.

The report says the river is only 50 metres wide at Sanhe and is shallow enough to be crossed by children.

It notes that borders “are not only a geographical concept, but also involve extremely complex [matters of] security and struggle.”

The police chief said that after the monitoring system was launched, “there have basically been no more cases of illegal border-crossers entering the village to take part in illegal activities.” However, he added, “But border security must not be relaxed because ordinary people are the most direct victims” [if it were relaxed].

China rarely reports on incidents on the North Korean border, but in 2009 NKEW told how the bodies of 56 North Koreans attempting to flee to China, including seven children, were found floating in the Yalu river in 2003.

The information came from a notice issued by police in Baishan in Jilin province which said that postmortems showed that all the people had been shot. “The evidence suggests that they had been shot by Korean armed border guards when attempting to cross illicitly into China,” it added. The notice, which could not be authenticated, was found on an unnamed Chinese blog which had apparently reposted it from

UPDATE: Adam Cathcart provides some interesting context to this story.


Comments are closed.