Promises, pitfalls on the North Korea-China border | NK News
June 14, 2024

Promises, pitfalls on the North Korea-China border

Border between long-time allies sees plenty of trade, despite shortcomings caused by mutual distrust

Sino-Korean relations are very important to us, to the North Koreans, even to the Chinese. As any reader of NK News will no doubt be aware, North Korea is a highly unusual place in this part of the world, a place without much external trade, and its only truly important trading partner is China. The border between the two countries is an important focal point for the two states.

Seen from the North Korean side, the Chinese Northeast (often known as Manchuria) is a beacon of accessible and perilous prosperity. The area that immediately borders North Korea is also wealthy, and its eastern area has many Chinese Koreans who migrated there starting in the late 19th century. Thus, the borderlands specifically, but the Chinese Northeast in general (with its good transport infrastructure) presents opportunities for North Korean state companies and agencies to trade commodities wholesale and set up restaurants staffed with the most beautiful members of the country’s lower elite. As a student in the area, it was easy to find North Korean restaurants in Shenyang, Yanji and Hunchun, usually overstaffed with beautiful North Korean waitresses who often sang, sometimes with customers, and made sure that you always had enough drink.

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