chapter  33
12 Pages

Evaded states

Security and control in the Sino–North Korean border region
WithAdam Cathcart

The riverine boundaries dividing the People’s Republic of China from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the DPRK, or North Korea) remain sites of intense contestation. Among the groups active in the area are illegal traders and refugees, trafficked individuals and traffickers, public security bureaus and border forces, and journalists and intelligence agents. As a borderland where one side is effectively closed to researchers, the quality of information from the region is particularly problematic. Mass media discourse has tended to regard the region primarily as a site of one-way outward transit of victimized refugees from the DPRK, rather than treating North Korean border-crossers as pragmatic and capable of agency. Likewise, the focus on illegal crossings into China and writing about North Korean drug smuggling has obscured the strong mutual interests possessed by the nominally socialist states on either side of the border, even if their cooperation remains obscure. This chapter seeks to use a matrix of sources including Chinese documents, North Korean state media, defector testimonies, along with recent studies to synthesize a new view of the region focused on security and evasion.