Some observers believe that the reason there are more female North Koreans willing to flee their country is the relatively less severe punishment that women expect to receive if caught and repatriated than men. Also considered is the fact that women find it easier to get jobs in China than men, who are more likely to be under suspicion from the Chinese authorities.
Ben Sanders of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants confirmed in a recent interview with Radio Free Asia that some local governments in China allow female North Korean refugees who are married to Chinese men to obtain an ID. He believes that China must have given some thought on how such a practice can be introduced within its own legal framework. "It's hard to say whether such a practice is completely legitimate or illegitimate. It's in between."
Last year, China sent about 1,800 refuges back to North Korea, which was a sharp reduction from about 5,000 it had repatriated in 2005.
There is no authoritative estimation about how many North Korean refugees are in China, given the caution and the secret manner in which they behave there. Sanders believes there were about 30,000 North Korean refugees in China last year. However, some non-governmental organizations estimate the number could go as high as 300,000.
[Excerpt of an article by Sunny Lee, Asia Times]