Children of North Koreans, living between borders | NK News
July 13, 2024

Children of North Koreans, living between borders

A generation of half-Korean children, denied full legal rights, come of age in China

When Ms. Park, a North Korean national living illegally in China, was caught by the police, she left behind an abusive Chinese husband and their 4-year-old son. Without Ms. Park present, her son was abandoned by his father and left with his paternal grandparents. Almost starving to death in their care, her son found food from begging or in the local church. Not only was the family situation dire, but Ms. Park’s son was also not recognized by the local government as a Chinese national, nor was he given legal documentation. Without documentation, he was unable to receive an education. Ms. Park’s son had no choice but to wait until his mother returned from North Korea to find him.

North Koreans and their undocumented children usually live in the provinces of China that border North Korea. These regions are melting pots of cultures: Han Chinese, chaoxianxu (Chinese of Korean ethnicity), and legal and illegal North Korean migrants along with their children all seamlessly co-exist. Both the Korean and Chinese languages can be overheard in the streets. At first sight, there is little to distinguish those who are Chinese from those who are not. What separates the populations is civil documentation.

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