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Data Questions: 

Where is this data from?

This data was reported by the China National Tourism Administration (which merged into the PRC Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2018) and by the China Statistical Yearbook published by the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Additional data on international travel by North Koreans (collected through mirror statistics) is available through the World Tourism Organization. South Korea's Ministry of Unification also collects data on inter-Korean travel, as well as on the number of North Korean refugees in the South.

Do these numbers account for all North Korean travel to China?

No. These figures only include North Koreans who have received permission from the Chinese government to enter the country, and who presumably have an exit visa from the DPRK as well. Additionally, some North Koreans may travel back and forth across the border frequently, for business purposes or to renew short-term visas, and would therefore be counted multiple times in these statistics.

Additionally, there are a significant number of undocumented North Korean refugees residing in China, with estimates ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 people; as undocumented North Koreans in China face the risk of deportation and punishment, it is very difficult to estimate the size of this population. Reported China travel figures also do not include North Koreans who may enter the country undocumented on short-term trips related to trade, family visits, or other purposes.

What kinds of work or activities do North Koreans undertake in China?

The majority of North Koreans who travel legally to China serve as guest workers, in fields such as construction, mining, and textile manufacturing, or as workers at North Korean-owned restaurants. North Korean state-owned enterprises typically facilitate the export of such North Korean workers abroad, and closely control the activities of these workers while they are overseas. Additionally, there is a significant number of North Koreans who travel to China for business purposes, or as representatives of state-owned trading companies. Some North Koreans also travel to China for educational or exchange purposes. North Koreans working as crew or drivers on ships, planes, trains, and trucks would also be expected to routinely enter China on a short-term basis, and the extent to which this data reflects their entries is unclear.