Explaining North Korean Migration to China

The Wilson Center’s North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP) is pleased to announce the release of e-Dossier No. 11, “Explaining North Korean Migration to China.”

The North Korea/China border region is often portrayed as a place of recent North Korean migration that started in the wake of famine of the early 1990s. This common knowledge is, however, only partially true and obscures as much as it illuminates: It ignores and is ignorant of the pre-existing fluidity of legal and illegal migration between the northern DPRK and the northern provinces of China. Importantly, the dominant narrative fails to understand that what was very new about the 1990s was not inter-country migration itself but the reversal of migration flow patterns. Prior to the 1990s, migration between the two countries was mainly a one-way traffic of ethnic Koreans of Chinese nationality heading south towards North Korea.

NKIDP e-Dossier no. 11, “Explaining North Korean Migration to China,” is introduced by Hazel Smith, Woodrow Wilson Center Fellow and Professor in Humanitarianism and Security at Cranfield University, and features 11 translated Chinese documents which provide evidence of historical cases of legal and illegal migration between the DPRK and China.

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