February 21, 2024

The boundaries of identity on the NK-China border

Those benefitting most now would be most disenfranchised in the event of unification

On the Sino-North Korean border, there are three factors defining the rights of borderland residents. The first is citizenship – Chinese or North Korean. One cannot hold both since China does not recognize dual citizenship (for the record, North Korea does, at least formally). The second is ethnicity – Han Chinese or Korean. Both China and the DPRK share the old Soviet approach to ethnicity: It is a formal status, not merely a question of identity. Last is place of residence, of course: China or North Korea. So, we have 2*2*2=8 combinations, but as we can see from below, there are only seven which exist in real life.

The most casual variations are when citizenship, ethnicity and residence are all the same. So you’re either a Han Chinese with a Chinese passport living in China or a Korean DPRK citizen living in North Korea. There is nothing exotic about these two types, so I will not talk about them in any detail.