Thousands of North Koreans are hiding on farms and in towns all over China’s three Manchurian provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang, which are divided from North Korea by the Tumen and Yalu rivers.
The men labor on the land in exchange for food or a little cash, but risk betrayal. Even taxi drivers have been known to turn in refugees for a £20 bounty.
The danger is multiplied for women, who are routinely kidnapped, raped and sold into sexual slavery, for China’s one-child policy has sown a dire shortage of girls up in these lonely wastes.
“I interview them,” said [North Korean Underground Railroad activist] Nam, “I must decide who will be strong enough mentally and physically to make it. And I also have to pick ones who will be able to adapt to life in South Korea, which isn’t easy.”
They are groomed, coached in rudimentary Chinese, and in some cases given new identities as South Korean “tourists”.
Then Nam must shepherd them, with their new documents and clothes, past policemen at a railway station or bus terminal.
[Excerpt of an article by Michael Sheridan, Sunday Times]