China Elevator Stories

Northeast China’s Road Less Traveled: Visiting The North Korean Border Near Ji’an

We follow the Yalu River and catch sight of North Korea’s sixth largest city, Manpo.


Ruth Silbermayr-Song


My brother visits us in China and we decide to make a road trip to the North Korean border, which is only about 400 km from Siping in Jilin province, where we currently live. We don’t plan to cross into North Korea, but visit the border area near the town of Ji’an in Jilin province instead.

The border area is located in a mountainous region and spring hasn’t started yet. The natural surroundings are stunning nevertheless, and we love the fact that the place isn’t overrun with tourists.

We follow the Yalu River, which marks the border between North Korea and the PR China upstream and catch a glimpse of North Korea’s sixth largest city, Manpo, and other North Korean villages from the Chinese side.

Even though the Yalu is shallow here, crossing the river into China is not allowed for North Koreans and could lead to death if they are to be discovered while trying to do so. Watching the setting for a while, we see one car, two small trucks, two trains, a handful of bicycles, and one or the other motorbike on the other side. We can also see North Koreans taking leisurely walks near the riverbed on the North Korean side of the Yalu. The majority of people we watch from the other side walk by foot; some walk from the town to villages further down the road.

Although the whole setting looks very peaceful, my husband notices the presence of fighting holes on the North Korean side. The mountains on the North Korean side all look more barren and lack the plants and trees that grow on the mountains on the Chinese side. According to my husband, Manpo and the surrounding villages don’t have electricity.

Right next to the border crossing on the Chinese side, organic strawberries are grown in greenhouses.

I’m not sure as to the current situation, but Chinese have been able to visit Manpo during the day via the border located at Ji’an in the past. According to my husband, Chinese visitors could bring food items with them in the past, and Chinese visitors would fill their suitcases with instant noodles and other food items and leave them on the roadside for locals to pick them up.

Have you ever traveled to this area?