The Chosun Ilbo recently published a troubling story about the thousands of children of North Korean refugee women currently living without their mothers in China. The story was inspired by a report from the Korean National Human Rights Commission that involved a survey of 100 children living in china with North Korean mothers. The most startling figure in this survey was that only 21 of the 100 children interviewed were living with their mothers. Another 59 lived either with their father only or other relatives. The remaining 20 lived in shelters run by evangelical missionaries. The report estimates that there are more than 20-30 thousand children living in China under these circumstances. Extensive Research by Courtland Robinson of Johns Hopkins University suggests that there are at least 10 thousand children born in China to North Korean mothers.
The two main reasons why the mothers aren’t present are deportation back to North Korea (36 percent) and mothers leaving the family mainly for South Korea (31 percent). Worse yet for these children is that they are essentially stateless. They have no home in North Korea and their prospects in China are severely limited under these circumstances. Stephan Haggard discussed the struggles facing these children in a post last year while discussing the US North Korean Refugee Adoption Act which was signed into law by President Obama earlier this year.
While laws like the Refugee Adoption Act and the good faith efforts of missionaries and relatives seek to afford better opportunities and lasting homes for these children, they remain ill served. If the Chinese policy of separating families by deporting refugees persists, and if economic realities continue to drive refugees from their families in search of work, this phenomenon is likely to continue.