North Koreans smuggled into China

Migrants work on cattle ranches or soybean farms. Despite paying fines for long absences, they still make more than in North Korea.

Beijing (AsiaNews/RFA) – Thousands of North Koreans are brought to China to work in the country’s farms, “rented out” rather than “sold”.

The North Koreans arrive in early spring and go home in late autumn. They care for cattle and sheep or seed and harvest soybeans.

Caring for cattle can earn them up to three dollars a day or 300 dollars a season. Considering that North Korean authorities impose a 50 cent fine per day of absence, these “border migrants” can still earn far more than they would if they stayed at home.

The practice has developed over the years. The Chinese call contacts in North Korea asking for labourers. Smugglers pick the people and lead them across the Tumen or Yalu rivers at the beginning and at the end of work season. The smugglers make about US$ 33 per person. Those who ferry smugglers and their cargo make US$ 2.

North Korean farmhands are not the only people smuggled into China. North Korean women are brought in as brides or sex workers.

Whilst North Korean authorities have strict rules and punish emigres, border guards are often willing participants in this kind of trade.