Last time I visited Yánjí, in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Jilin Province, the city was blanketed in a carpet of snow and buffeted by freezing winds sweeping south from Siberia. Last month I had the opportunity to visit Yánjíduring the summer, to soak in the vibrant street life and beautiful surrounds of this fascinating Korean enclave in Northeastern China.
Yánjí is a small frontier city of approximately 400,000 people, a “little Seoul” in northeast China, with a large ethnic Korean population (Zhonguo Chaoxianzu in Mandarin, Joseonjok in Korean) navigate dual identities as Chinese citizens of Korean heritage. Many Chaoxianzu have relatives living in North Korea. Yanbian is nestled in the important strategic border region where the Chinese, North Korean and Russian frontiers meet. Yánjí is an important transition point for cross-border trade with North Korea, as well as a staging point for clandestine South Korean and American Christian missionary activity in North Korea and an initial stop for North Korean defectors escaping across the Tumen River. It is also a distribution point for the export of North Korean-manufactured narcotics to China and other destination countries across East Asia.
The photo gallery below documents my return to Yánjí and the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture.