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Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 15:47 UK

China torch relay: Yanji

Cyclist in Yanji, file image
Korean culture is everywhere in Yanji
More than half of the 400,000 people living in Yanji are ethnic Koreans, as a result of its proximity to the border with North Korea.

Until the 19th Century the mountainous area was almost completely undeveloped.

Aware of the threat posed by Russia from the north, the Qing dynasty rulers began to encourage migration there.

But Chinese were reluctant to uproot their families to the remote, mountainous far north and it was Koreans who took up the mantle.

And Korean immigration remains a feature of modern-day Yanji.

CHINA RELAY CITIES IN FOCUS
China torch map
Use the map to see the full Olympic torch relay route or read about some of the key cities:

Road signs are bilingual and streets in the developed, relatively prosperous city are lined with Korean restaurants.

But there are signs of poverty and marginalisation in Yanji - barefoot children wandering in puddle-filled streets, ragged boys scrounging for food, families collecting plastic bottles on waste ground.

There are also thriving black markets - mainly populated by Yanji's more recent immigrants, North Koreans fleeing the repressive regime in Pyongyang.

China generally refuses to regard these people as refugees and many live as illegal immigrants or try to claim asylum at foreign missions. If they are captured, it is Chinese policy to return them to face harsh punishment in North Korea.

The city's large North Korean population has also attracted hundreds of Christian missionaries to the town - eager to minister to, and to convert, the refugees.



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