The largest concentration of Koreans is
in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in eastern Jilin Province.
Under its jurisdiction are the cities of Yanji and Tumen, and the
counties of Yanji, Helong, Antu, Huichun, Wangqing and Dunhua, covering
a total area of 41,500 sq. km.
The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture is a beautiful, majestic
land of high mountains and deep valleys. The land rises to 2,744
meters above sea level to the highest peak of the Changbai Mountains
-- White Head Summit. This is an extinct volcano, from the crater
lake of which spring the Yalu and Tumen rivers, flowing south and
north respectively, and forming the boundary with the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea to the east.
The area is accessible nowadays by both road and rail, except
for the mountain-locked Hunchun District. The prefecture has 1,600
km of railways and 3,700 km of highways and branch roads.
Another community of Koreans lives in the Changbai Korean Autonomous
County in southeastern Jilin.
The area is one of China's major sources of timber and forest
products, including ginseng, marten pelts and deer antlers. It is
also a habitat for many wild animals, including tigers.
Copper, lead, zinc and gold have been mined here since the Qing
Dynasty (1644-1911), and the area also has deposits of iron, antimony,
phosphorus, graphite, quartz, limestone and oil shale.
Yanbian is also blessed with agricultural riches and is a major
tobacco producer. It is famous for apples and pears, which have
been exported since 1955.
The ancestors of the Korean ethnic group migrated from the Korean
peninsula from about the late 17th century, mostly peasants fleeing
from their oppressive feudal landlords. Especially following a severe
famine in the northern part of Korea in 1869, they settled down
in large numbers in what is now the Yanbian area. Another wave of
migration took place in the early years of this century when Japan
annexed Korea and drove many peasants off the land. The Japanese
seizure of the Manchurian provinces further served to drive landless
Koreans to settle in Northeast China.
The Koreans have their own spoken and written language, which
is thought to belong to the Altaic family. Their alphabet is a simple,
ingenious one, and the Koreans are very proud of it.
The traditional Korean dress is white, a symbol of simplicity
and serenity. Men wear baggy trousers fastened at the ankles and
a jacket which fastens on the right; sometimes they wear a high-crowned
black horsehair hat. Women wear voluminous skirts and a tight jacket
which reaches just below the armpits.
Their cuisine is very spicy and includes kimchi (pickled vegetables),
cold noodles, sticky rice cakes and dog meat.
Yanbian is fairly evenly populated, with villages set a few miles
apart from each other and ranging in size from about a dozen households
to several scores. The houses are built of wood with low-eaved tile
or thatched roofs. They are heated by flues running under a raised
platform in the main rooms, which serves as a bed and also a place
to sit on. Shoes are removed before entering the house.
The Koreans are very fond of music. They sometimes sing and dance
to the accompaniment of drums and flutes in the fields or on construction
sites. Traditional festivals are celebrated heartily, especially
the Lunar New Year, and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Other occasions
for merriment are the 100th day after a baby's birth and a person's
In the old days, men labored in the fields while women worked
around the house. The eldest son became the head of the family upon
the death or incapacitation of the father. Monogamy was practiced
but early marriage and adoption of child brides and boys to carry
on the family tree were common.
Culturally, the Koreans suffered worst of all the peoples enslaved
by the Japanese; they were forced to speak the Japanese language
and adopt Japanese surnames. But Japan's attempt to destroy Korean
culture came to naught in 1945, and there was a resurgence of cultural
awareness among the Koreans.
Newspapers in the Korean language sprang up, including the Jilin
Daily (later renamed the Yanbian Daily), Heilongjiang Daily and
the Liaoning Daily. In 1947, the Yanbian Korean Publishing House
was founded in Yanji, and the Yanbian People's Radio went on the
air. Special Korean programs are also aired by the Central People's
Broadcasting Station and the Heilongjiang People's Broadcasting
Particular attention was paid to education. In 1949, the Yanbian
University was founded in Yanji. Other institutions of higher learning
established during the early post-liberation period include the
Yanbian Medical Institute, the Yanbian Amateur Agricultural University
and a teachers college. Universal secondary education was realized
as far back as 1958.
As a result, there are now large numbers of people of Korean origin
at all levels of leadership in many areas of China, and at renowned
educational institutions in China's major cities. The Yanbian area
is noted also for its culture and art troupes and cultural organizations.
At the prefectural level, these include the United Association of
Yanbian Culture and Art Workers and the Yanbian Branch of the Chinese
Writers Association. The Yanbian song and dance, modern drama and
theatrical companies are famous all over the country, and many Korean
artists study at advanced institutes in other parts of China.
The Korean ethnic minority has set up an efficient network of
health care centers and hospitals, including the Yanbian Hospital,
a tuberculosis treatment center, an anti-epidemic hospital and a
psychiatric sanatorium. The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
boasts high standards of maternity, childcare and family planning,
as well as an enviable record in the fight against endemic diseases.