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Published on Oct 15, 2007
October 2007 They risk all trying to make it across the North Korean border to China, only to find no guarantee of a better life. At constant risk of being deported, these refugees live a half life in the shadows. "I thought if I came to China life would be better", laments one woman. "I was wrong". Without Chinese language skills, most North Korean refugees remain at risk of being discovered by the police. "The police pay 200 yuan to anyone who discloses the whereabouts of North Koreans", explains one refugee. "That's what I'm most afraid of. I'm always hiding". Easy prey for the unscrupulous, they're forced to do dangerous jobs for little money. "Most North Korean women fall into the hands of human traffickers", states activist Tim Peters. "They're sold into prostitution". Unlike other countries, China classes North Korean refugees as economic migrants. If caught, they face return to Pyongyang and almost certain execution. "North Koreans are being sent back by the hundreds", complains Peters. Without external pressure, the situation for these refugees is unlikely to improve. Their only hope is that scrutiny surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics will encourage China to change its policy.