At the beginning of July 2013, Y and I spend a day in Yanji. Yanji is a city not too far from the North Korean border and is the capital of the Korean autonomous prefecture in Jilin province. Street signs, advertisements and the like are all written in Chinese as well as Korean. Both Chinese and Korean are widely spoken here.
We take a cab. After the driver is done asking Y questions such as where I’m from, if I study here, speak Chinese and so on, I ask him:
“Do more people from North Korea or from South Korea live here?”
He: “People who live here are Chinese*.”
I: “I see. But of the Koreans who come here?”
He: “I think it’s about half-half. People from South Korea come here to do business, it’s easy for them to come here and they do have money. North Koreans in North Korea, well, you know, they are really poor and don’t have enough to eat. 10 years ago you could buy a North Korean woman for 2000 Chinese Yuan (around 250 EUR or 325 USD today). You could sleep with her and if you got bored of her, you could sell her again. Nowadays, it’s not as easy for North Koreans to come here. If they get caught, they’ll be sent back to North Korea where they’ll get shot in the head.”
I: “So you’re saying that it was easier for them to get here 10 years ago?”
He: “Exactly. It seems to be much harder for them to get here now.”
Before I can ask anything else, we arrive at our destination and say goodbye to the driver.
Has anyone ever told you something similar? I’d love to read your comments.
*People of the Korean minority living in Yanji usually hold a Chinese passport and are thus considered Chinese citizens. A large part of the ethnic Koreans living in Yanji have been living in that area of China for a few generations.