Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tumen River

The Tumen or Duman River is a 521 km-long river that serves as part of the boundary between China, North Korea, and Russia, rising in and flowing into the Sea of Japan.

The river flows in northeast Asia, on the border between China and North Korea in its upper reaches, and between North Korea and Russia in its last 17 kilometres before entering the Sea of Japan. The river forms much of the southern border of Jilin Province in Manchuria and the northern borders of North Korea's North Hamgyong and Yanggang provinces. Baekdu Mountain on the Chinese-North Korean border is the source of the river, as well as of the Yalu River.

The name of the river comes from the word '''', meaning "ten thousand". This river is badly polluted by the nearby factories of North Korea and China; however, it still remains a major tourist attraction in the area. In Tumen, Jilin, China, a riverfront promenade has restaurants where patrons can gaze across the river into North Korea. Russian name of river is ''Tumannaya''. It means ''foggy''.

Important cities on the river are Hoeryong, Namyang and Onsong in North Korea, and in China.

Refugee crossing

The Tumen has been used for years by North Korean refugees defecting across the Chinese border. Most refugees from North Korea during the 1990s famine crossed over the Tumen River, and most recent refugees have also used it.

Although the Tumen is heavily patrolled by armed guards of the DPRK, the river is considered the preferred way to cross into China because, unlike the swift and deep Yalu River which runs along most of the border between the two countries, the Tumen is shallow and narrow. "It is easily crossed in spots on foot or by swimming," according to a 2006 article in ''The New York Times''.

Defectors who wish to cross the Tumen often ignore its pollutants and dangerous border patrol, and spend weeks if not months or years waiting for the perfect opportunity to cross.

"Long, desolate stretches of the Chinese-North Korean border are not patrolled at all," according to ''The New York Times'' article.

Refugees seldom cross the Tumen into Russia because that government patrols its short stretch of the river more actively than China, and the refugees have no large ethnic Korean community in which to hide.


한준영 said...

Hello, my name is ---- and I am a member Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK) living in South Korea. VANK consists of elementary, middle, and high school students and we voluntarily correct wrong information about Korea on many different websites.

Recently, I visited your website and was quiet surprised to see wrong information on your map. Rivers on the borderline between Korea and China were called as “Yalu River” and ‘Tumen River”, instead of “Amnok River” and “Duman River”.

Such an error in a well known website like yours comes as a surprise since we regard you as one of the world’s best.

If the map on your website keeps Chinese names for “Amnok River” and “Duman River”, two world-famous Korean legacies, people who see your map will recognize these rivers as Chinese.

We believe that it is wrong to hear only one side’s opinion when naming territories and borderlines between two countries. If people let this kind of things alone, it will be difficult to maintain the order and good relationship between Korea and China.

Therefore, we ask you to replace “Yalu River” and ‘Tumen River”, Chinese names, to "Amnok River” and “Duman River”. If this change cannot be made easily in near future, we would strongly urge to use both names on your map. As you probably know, conventionally, mapmakers put both names if there are some conflicts over the naming of territories and borderlines. In fact, correcting names of the rivers is related to one of our many projects: Recovering the lost territory, Gando.

Above all things, I cannot stand with Chinese government’s efforts to publicize Chinese names for “Amnok River” and “Duman River”, one of the most important key to answer the conflict over Gando area.

If you are interested in world history and the international politics, I am sure that you are well aware that so many countries have suffered from imperialism of few countries.

Lastly, please do not misunderstand the reason of sending this mail to you. I am not a student full of nationalistic ideas. As a young Korean teenager, I am trying to erase the legacy of Japanese Imperialism in Korea and to redress the unfairness that has resulted from it.

VANK and I hope that our little efforts to prevent rising of imperialism and aggressive policies again cause the continuation of peace and order in the East Asia region.

If you have interests about Korea's lost terriotry, Gando, please visit sites below or email us at

→ Territorial dispute on Gando, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture

→ Gando: Conflict or Peace?

→ Truth in scholarship

Thank you.

유형주 said...

Dear. writer
My name is YU-hyoungju.

First, I think your blog is very useful for foreigners who want to know many countries. So I used to visit this web site and I esteem your this site’s exact information.
yesterday, I found a error in this site. Also someone requested to correct this post (2012). But it didn't adjusted yet. I hope your understand.

Tumen river is not correct expression. Tumen river is just Chinese pronounce. So if you use this expression-Tumen river-, many other Asian people can be confused. It’s General expression is Duman-river. In Asian history, in addition, this river is very important landmark. This river is referred in many Asian history books and this river is also important in distinction ancient territory

So I recommend you to change the expression-Tumen-river- to Duman-river. This change will contribute your site’s reliability. And it’s very important problem for Asian people to change wrong expression to correct one. Thank you for reading my message. I’ll expect your answer.