Chinese factories have raised wages for North Korean workers, Daily NK has learned. Chinese companies have recently been able to save money by employing North Koreans without issuing work visas. They’re now apparently investing the “surplus money” into the wages of their North Korean employees.

Daily NK has previously reported that North Koreans working in China earn an average of about RMB 2,000 to 3,000 a month. According to a China-based source Daily NK spoke to on Monday, “the wages of workers in Hunchun, Jilin Province, have now risen by about RMB 200.”

RMB 200 is equivalent to approximately KRW 33,000, a relatively small amount. For a North Korean laborer who works in a Chinese factory, however, this constitutes a 20% increase in his monthly salary.

Laborers are particularly excited because they will get to keep the additional money, according to the source. While North Koreans previously had to pay half of their wage to the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), “the latest salary increase means that workers actually earn more money because the levy to the party is fixed.”

China has been able to save money by letting North Korean workers reside in the country without official work visas, which, along with accommodation fees, annually cost Chinese companies about RMB 500 per person. As North Koreans can now reside and work in China without any visa, the companies are no longer required to pay for their accommodation and are apparently investing the money into their salaries instead.


Sources claimed the North Korean regime has also been sending more and more workers to China.

“About 7,000 North Koreans worked in Hunchun at the end of last year,” a source told Daily NK. “This number has recently increased to 13,000. And Chinese companies are asking North Korea to send more people.”

North Korean workforces are even bigger – “currently 30,000 North Korean people” – in China’s Jilin Province and Liaoning Province, according to the source.

The increase of North Korean workers in China has been linked to the UN Security Council’s “Resolution 2397.” The mandatory deadline demands the mandatory repatriation of North Koreans working abroad by Dec. 22.

“With sanctions drawing closer, the North Korean authorities are trying to send even more workers over and have adopted laxer entry procedures,” the source explained.

According to sources, only very few of the North Koreans working in Chinese factories hold official visas at the moment. In fact, Chinese corporations has been admitting laborers from North Korea visa-free since the end of last year. Together with the North Korean state authorities, they’ve also been trying to replace the original visa-holding workforce with a new, visa-free group.

North Korean women in Dandong
North Korean women leaving a customs office in Dandong, Liaoning Province, China. / Image: Daily NK


At the same time, however, the unclear legal status of visa-free North Koreans in China have reportedly lead to a deterioration of their working conditions. For instance, while the laborers used to be able to leave their factories once a week, the new rules mean they’re prohibited to leave at all – allegedly to prevent them from being “detected” by outsiders. 

In addition, sources have reported instances where workers were severely injured or were unable to receive urgently needed medical care.

“Without a clear legal status, North Korean workers are not recognized in and can’t receive any protection from Chinese law,” one source said. “They of them wouldn’t be able to go to the hospital even if they vomited blood. For them, it’s basically the same as being in jail.”

*Translated by Violet Kim and edited by Laura Geigenberger

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Jang Seul Gi is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to