North Korean trader in China expresses concerns about his own precarious situation

North Korean women at the customs office in Dandong in mid-February 2019
North Korean women at the customs office in Dandong in mid-February 2019. Image: Daily NK

North Korean workers in China facing visa denials or restrictions on their sojourn periods are being forced to return home, according to an affected source in China.

A North Korean trader in Liaoning Province recently told Daily NK by phone that Chinese authorities are demanding that all North Korean workers return home.

“I do business in Liaoning Province. China is making a big fuss and ordering us out [of the country] and now my Chinese visa has almost expired. But few North Koreans actually care about their visa status in China. China telling us to leave and it’s making me really angry and annoyed,” he said.

“A lot of people are returning home. This happened in the past, but this time is different. I asked a North Korean customs official and he said that half of the North Koreans in Dandong have left. That’s a huge number of people. Those who remain are worried about their status here. People who work in China generally have debts to pay back. I sometimes wonder if China is trying to destroy North Korea.”

He also spoke about his own precarious situation.

“I’ve brought over many workers myself into China. Each of them gave me 500 dollars and I found them work in factories run jointly with China. They’re all 500 dollars in debt. They can’t repay this money, so they’re worried about returning home. They could get beaten up or even die if they can’t repay their debts,” he said.

“I haven’t been able to contribute enough to the [regime’s] loyalty fund either. Returning home would be a death sentence. I’d rather die here (in China) before my body returns home.”

The man said that he would remain in China to earn foreign currency, even without a visa.

“I won’t leave China under any circumstances. I will just die here if I have to. I have too much business at stake. I haven’t been able to repay my debts. If I return to North Korea now, what will happen to my workers? They will have no choice but to return home with me. I’d rather go into hiding here and allow my workers to continue earning money and have a chance at repaying their debts.”