There are two layers of barbed wire fencing on the “border road” near the banks of the river. This prevents people from accessing the Tumen River’s waters.

<Photo Report>The North Korea-China Border (1) In August, Tumen and the midstream of the Tumen River was quiet

The Tumen River, which flows along the North Korea-China border, is a major waterway that is 580 kilometers long. From the Qing Dynasty era, Korean people went back and forth across the river, and from the late 1990s, it became the biggest route for people to defect from North Korea. Presently, both sides of the river have become thoroughly surrounded by barbed wire fencing. It is now impossible to cross over it.

In mid-August, an ASIAPRESS reporting partner – who is also a Chinese national – visited the midstream of the Tumen River near Samhapjin, in the city of Longjing, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province. The area sits across from Hoeryong, a city in North Hamgyung Province.

The Chinese authorities began restricting foreigners’ access to the Tumen River from around 2014. The area upstream from the city of Tumen, which had become a tourist destination, no longer welcomed visitors due to border patrol units and checkpoints run by the People’s Liberation Army. This writer tried to visit the Samhap area in the summer of 2017 through an indirect route but was blocked from going any further at a checkpoint near the Tumen River.

The Japanese and South Korean media frequently publish videos and photos in the Yalu River border area, but the paucity of photos of areas above the midstream of the Tumen River is due to Chinese efforts to prevent entry into the area.

ASIAPRESS last took photos of the Samhap-Hoeryong area in 2012. The photos taken by the Chinese reporting partner recently show rows of barbed wire fences, reminiscent of a disputed area. It’s obvious that the fencing is aimed at preventing North Koreans from crossing the river or defecting. There are barely any signs of people on either side of the border.
(Photos: PARK Song-min / Text : ISHIMARU Jiro)

※ Photos that have no mention in the captions of when they were taken were all taken by PARK Song-min in August 2023.

The entrance to the Samhap Trade Route from the Chinese side of the border. There are no signs of vehicles or cars nearby.
Barbed wire fencing near the “border road.” The mountain in the background is in North Korea.
North Korean has heavy security along the border. There are barbed wire fences, and the structures circled in red appear to be part of a military checkpoint.
There are areas throughout the “border road” completely cordoned off by barbed wire fencing.
Near Kangyang Station, which is located just a little way downstream from Hoeryong. The mountain in the background is full of trees, perhaps because of the country’s efforts to replant trees.
ISHIMARU Jiro stands at the center of the frozen Tumen River. This photo was taken in January or February of 1998.
The midstream area of the Tumen River before the installation of barbed wire fencing. Taken by ISHIMARU Jiro in June 2009.
Construction of concrete supports for barbed wire fencing at an upstream point of the Tumen River. Taken by NAM Jong-hak in September 2012 (ASIAPRESS)

<Photo Report> The North Korea-China Border (1) In August, Tumen and the midstream of the Tumen River was quiet
<Photo Report> The North Korea-China Border (3) The bridge connecting Hoeryong-Samhap with no vehicular or human traffic in sight