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Young women are more vulnerable than men. They keep changing their residences and may move with male defectors. This increases the chances of having casual relationships. In fact, male defectors, with limited financial resources, are known to move with female defectors to satisfy their sexual needs, aside from the psychological satisfaction. Because a woman marries a local Chinese does not mean that they have stable sexual partners. They are sold to man after man and tend to be treated as sexual objects, not wives. Moreover, the number of North Korean women working at bars and brothels is increasing. Many North Korean women who defected to South Korea via China are known to suffer from gynaecological diseases while the case of HIV infection among them is so far unreported.

The incidence of HIV infection among North Korean defectors is unknown in China. Based upon the lives of the defectors, however, vulnerable groups may be identified.

(1) youths appear to be most vulnerable. Most of them have no stable partners, have little knowledge about the seriousness of HIV and ‘safe sex’ may not be a priority.

(2) young women in particular may be at the highest risk of being infected with HIV. They may move around with male defectors for physical protection as well as emotional support, thereby increasing their chances of having casual relationships. They may be treated as sexual objects by Chinese ‘husbands’ and sold and resold to other Chinese men. They may work at bars and provide sex for financial return. The situation could potentially become worse in the future as defectors increasingly spread into remote areas and do not access health services.

(D) Returning international Chinese contract labour migrants

International contract labour migration is a growing phenomenon in China. It started in the late 1970s, with the opening up of the economy, and has surged in recent years. It doubled in 1995-99 compared to the period 1990-1994 (Iredale et al., 2003). The growth in ‘Other Asia’ and European migration is noticeable.

The related information about international migrants is very limited. Basically there is some pre-job training to contract outgoing labourers, and they are usually taken care of by recruiting agencies. Little research has been done in order to have a better understanding of their lives abroad. Some scholars have started to investigate by interviewing returned international migrants in southern costal provinces (Personal communication with Han Jialing, Beijing Academy of Social Sciences).

Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS

Early cases of HIV/AIDS were reported among returned labour migrants from abroad. Those who go out are often young, single and unaware of risks, and they are usually

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