Stateless North Korean Children in China

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DANDONG, China – Korean children are being left to fend for themselves in China where they are not afforded any protection as stateless children.

Some children are left behind in China when their North Korean mothers who defected to China are forced to repatriate to North Korea when caught by the Chinese authorities.  Other children are abandoned by mothers who defected to China and then have fled to South Korea to start a new life away from hunger and oppression.

According to aid workers, there are about 2,000 “defector orphans” in China.  In addition to these children, there is an estimated 10,000-20,000 “stateless orphans.”

“Stateless orphans” are children born between North Korean women who defected to China and then married Chinese men but were subsequently deported back to North Korea.

Stateless orphans do not have official Chinese registration paperwork; therefore, these orphans cannot receive education.  Late registration fee for children without paper is about $750, three times the monthly salary of average Chinese worker.

Support groups from various countries have found schools for ethnic Korean-Chinese children and have paid the registration fee for some children. 

Some children are fortunate enough to live with foster parents.  Despite Chinese laws forbidding taking in a stranger’s child as one’s own, a couple near the North Korea-China border who wished to remain anonymous have taken in some “stateless orphans.”

Another caretaker, Kim Hey-young, said that the children are in a “terrible state of neglect and malnutrition” when they first arrive at foster homes. 

Some children have also been subject to abuse.  One child, whose North Korean mother was taken away by the authorities, was then tortured by her alcoholic Korean-Chinese father.

In addition to the impact on the children of North Korean mothers who defect, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea also pointed out the flight of female North Korean defectors.

The Committee reported that North Korean women who are trafficked to China are usually trafficked into forced marriages.  Many North Korean women flee North Korea to escape famine but after being “sold” to Chinese men, these women have to endure backbreaking labor, physical assault, and sexual abuse.

Under UN’s refugee convention, China should not force defectors back to North Korea where they will face punishment and torture.

For more information, please see:

One Free Korea – Benefit Concert for Stateless Orphans in China – 21 January 2010

One Free Korea – China’s Loathesome Treatment of North Korean Children – 14 February 2010

Radio Free Asia – Korean Children Left n China – 12 February 2010

Author: Impunity Watch Archive