Posted March. 12, 2015 07:23,
Around noon last Sunday at the Hunchun Border Economic Cooperation Zone in the Chinese border city of Hunchun, about 100 women who seem to be in their early 20s wearing mostly sky blue jumpers and black training pants were walking in a line. A local taxi driver said that North Korean workers were the only ones moving in groups on Chinese streets at lunchtime.
Carrying plastic bags in their bare hands despite a freezing weather, the women were talking in whispers, occasionally bursting into laughter. "Chinese workers are all taking today off because it is a Sunday and the Women`s Day," the cab driver said. "But the North Korean women are not off today and returning to work after lunch."
As this reporter approached the women, they stopped chatting and turned wary, looking very nervous. They were followed by a man who seemed to be keeping a close watch on them. A source in Hunchun accompanying this reporter said, "These women are employees at Heng Feng, a blue jeans maker in Hunchun. As the city`s manufacturing industry is booming but has manpower shortages, companies are importing North Korean workers. The city`s first survey on how many workers the companies needed from North Korea showed that they were in need of 5,000 in total."
Although the ties have been strained between Beijing and Pyongyang since North Korea`s nuclear tests and execution of Jang Song Thaek, the once powerful uncle-in-law of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Chinese local governments in the border areas are expanding economic cooperation with the North, attracting North Korean workers. In particular, Chinese President Xi Jinping`s call on Jilin Province representatives at the 2015 National People`s Congress session to enhance the level of market opening and reinvigorate old industrial bases has added momentum to economic cooperation with the North at the border areas.