April 21, 2024
Evergreen

Near misses along the Chinese-North Korean border

There's another group of Korean families separated by borders, but less bound by emotional loss

Following last month’s reunions between families split for decades by the Korean division, the experiences of relatives separated by the North Korea-China border provide a compelling point of comparison. Lacking the abrupt and seemingly irreversible tone of inter-Korean division, the family histories of the many Korean Chinese (chosonjok) in this region seem extraordinary multi-generational tales of accidental escape. 

Rany – a pseudonym – and I are sitting by a window in the Yanji branch of Café Kacao, part of a Chinese chain based in Shanghai but with a strong South Korean aesthetic, on the 13th floor of a commercial tower block in Yanji’s ramshackle central district. As the late fall dusk draws in, a long streak of red commuter taillights files along the road below toward the looming hills beyond the northern edge of town.

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