yuan per day while their Chinese counterparts are paid 50 yuan or more a day for the same kind of work. Some defectors are working more than full-time just for food and shelter, with no payment. At worst, their employers refuse to pay them and threaten to report them for illegal residence.
The second condition that North Korean defectors have to meet is physical protection. Those who go to Russia no longer have to run for their life from the police but the situation is different in China. In China they have to be alert not to be detected and arrested by the police. If they are arrested they are deported to North Korea, where they and their families may be tortured or even put to death. Thus they utilise various tactics not to be arrested. One tactic is to live in the mountains. In fact, many North Korean defectors are known to live in makeshift camps and ‘mud caverns’ near the tops of mountains so that they can watch the police coming from below and run away. Another tactic is, as mentioned already, to move farther from the Yanbian area.
Apart from the problems of economic and physical security, North Korean defectors suffer from various psychological problems. First, they live in constant fear of arrest and repatriation. This fear is different from irregular workers of other nationalities in that North Korean defectors would be treated as national traitors. They would be humiliated, tortured, sent to prison or even executed in pubic. Another type of psychological problem they frequently face is prejudice from local residents. The Chinese tend to treat North Korean defectors as if they are beggars. Prejudice and discrimination appear to be more deeply felt by North Korean women. The local Chinese think that North Korean women are women of easy virtue, willing to ‘throw their bodies for a night for a bowl of rice’ (Good Friends, 1999).
Most North Korean defectors living in China appear to be exhausted both physically and psychologically. This suggests that they are more vulnerable to any type of illness. First, caring much about their health is a ‘luxury’. They have to care more about how to feed and protect themselves. Second, they are more likely to form casual relationships. Many of them may not have enduring sexual partners, since they have to keep moving. This suggests that they are more likely to have increased vulnerability to HIV.
The vulnerability of North Koreans would come also from their status of being a defector. Even if they suspected that they were infected with HIV, they would hesitate to report to health authorities. Though the Chinese health care system is well developed, most defectors would not be able to afford to pay the hospital fees. More importantly, they could be afraid of being reported by the hospital staff. In fact, North Korean defectors say that they never go to hospital. Instead, they go to the local pharmacy and ask for medication they believe to be effective. This is especially so in the Yanbian area, where the police are more active in search of defectors.