China Elevator Stories

“10 Years Ago You Could Buy A North Korean Woman For 2000 Chinese Yuan”

At the beginning of July 2013, my husband and I spend a day in Yanji near the North Korean border.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


At the beginning of July 2013, my husband and I spend a day in Yanji. Yanji is a city not too far from the North Korean border and is the capital of the Korean autonomous prefecture in Jilin province. Street signs and advertisements are all written in Chinese as well as Korean. Both Chinese and Korean are widely spoken here.

We take a cab. After the driver has asked my husband questions, I inquire: “Do more people from North Korea or South Korea live here?”

He tells me: “People who live here are Chinese.”
“I see. What about the Koreans who come here?”

illustration chinese money - Ruth Silbermayr

“I think it’s about half-half. People from South Korea come here to do business. It’s easy for them to come here as they do have money. North Koreans in North Korea, well, you know, they are really poor and don’t have enough to eat.
10 years ago you could buy a North Korean woman for 2000 Chinese Yuan. You could sleep with her and if you got bored of her, you could sell her again.
It’s not as easy for North Koreans to come here nowadays as it used to be. If they get caught, they’ll be sent back to North Korea where they’ll get shot in the head.”

“So what you’re saying is that it was easier for them to get here 10 years ago?”
“Exactly. It seems to be much harder for them to get here now.”

Before I can ask anything else, we arrive at our destination and say goodbye to the driver.

Have you ever heard about this?

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