Tumen River

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Tumen River
Duman River (두만강;豆滿江) or Tuman River
Tumen River near Songhak-ri.jpg
Location Tumen-River.png
Location of the Tumen River
EtymologyMongolian, "ten thousand" & Old Korean "ten thousand (드먼 (Tŭmŏn))"
Native name图们江  (Chinese)
Country North Korea (DPRK), China (PRC), Russia
Province (DPRK) North Hamgyong, Ryanggang
Province (PRC) Jilin
Federal subject (Russia) Primorsky Krai
Physical characteristics
Source Paektu Mountain
Mouth Sea of Japan
Sea of Japan, Russia, North Korea
42°17′34″N130°41′56″E / 42.29278°N 130.69889°E / 42.29278; 130.69889 Coordinates: 42°17′34″N130°41′56″E / 42.29278°N 130.69889°E / 42.29278; 130.69889
0 m (0 ft)
Length521 km (324 mi)
Basin size33,800 km2 (13,100 sq mi)
Tumen River
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 圖們江
Simplified Chinese 图们江
Korean name
Hancha 滿
Mongolian name
Mongolian Cyrillic Түмэн гол
Manchu name
Manchu script ᡨᡠᠮᡝᠨ ᡠᠯᠠ
Romanization Tumen ula
Russian name
Russian Т у м а н н а я р е к а
Romanization 'Tumannaya Reka'

The Tumen River, also known as the Tuman River or Dooman River (Korean pronunciation:  [tumanɡaŋ] ), [lower-alpha 1] is a 521-kilometre (324 mi) long river that serves as part of the boundary between China, North Korea and Russia, rising on the slopes of Mount Paektu and flowing into the Sea of Japan. The river has a drainage basin of 33,800 km2 (13,050 sq mi). [2]


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 kilometers (11 mi) before entering the Sea of Japan. The river forms much of the southern border of Jilin Province in Northeast China and the northern borders of North Korea's North Hamgyong and Ryanggang provinces. Baekdu Mountain on the Chinese-North Korean border is the source of the river, [3] as well as of the Amnok River, also called the Yalu River (which forms the western portion of the border of North Korea and China).

The name of the river comes from the Mongolian word tümen , meaning "ten thousand" or a myriad. 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, a riverfront promenade has restaurants where patrons can gaze across the river into North Korea. [3] The Russian name of the river is Tumannaya, literally meaning foggy .

In 1938 the Japanese built the Tumen River Bridge, where the Quan River meets the Tumen River, between the villages of Wonjong (Hunchun) and Quanhe. Important cities and towns on the river are Hoeryong and Onsong in North Korea, Tumen and Nanping (南坪镇, in the county-level city of Helong) in China's Jilin province.

In 1995, the People's Republic of China, Mongolia, Russia, North Korea and South Korea signed three agreements to create the Tumen River Economic Development Area. [4] [5] [6] [7]


Noktundo, a former island (now effectively a peninsula) at the mouth of the Tumen, has been a boundary contention between Russia and North Korea. [8] The Qing Dynasty ceded the island to Russia as part of the Primorsky Maritimes (East Tartary) in the 1860 Treaty of Peking. [8] In 1990, the former Soviet Union and North Korea signed a border treaty which made the border run through the center of the river, leaving territory of the former island on Russian side. South Korea refuses to acknowledge the treaty and demanded that Russia return the territory to Korea. [9]

Illegal crossings

The Tumen has been crossed 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, as it is far easier than crossing the Amnok. [10]

The river is considered the preferred way to cross into China because, unlike the swift, deep and broad Amnok River which runs along most of the border between the two countries, the Tumen is shallow and narrow. [3] In some areas it can be crossed on foot, or by short swims. [3] It also freezes in winter allowing dry crossings. [10] [11]

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 a New York Times article. [3]

Refugees rarely cross the Tumen into Russia. This is because Russia's short stretch of the river is far better patrolled than China's stretch. [3] In addition, the rewards for doing so aren't as high since the ethnic Korean community in Russia is far smaller to receive sufficient support from, as opposed to China, which has a larger Korean population.

The Tumen is also crossed illegally by soldiers and others seeking food and money. Some Chinese villagers have left the border area because of the attacks. [10]

The history of conflict in the area (examples include incidents during the Battle of Lake Khasan) was alluded to in singer Kim Jeong-gu's song 'Tearful Tumen River (눈물 젖은 두만강)', which became an ode to families separated by such tragedies and by defections during the Korean War. [12] The humanitarian crisis along the Tumen River was dramatized in the 2010 dramatic feature-length film. , Dooman River . [13]


  1. Tumen River is a stream in China and has an elevation of 5 m. Tumen River is close to Mys Sesura. In the 19th century, the river was also known to the West as the Mi Kiang. [1]

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Yalu River River on the border between North Korea and China

The Yalu River, also called by Koreans the Amrok River or Amnok River, is a river on the border between North Korea and China. Together with the Tumen River to its east, and a small portion of Paektu Mountain, the Yalu forms the border between North Korea and China. Its valley became the scene of military conflicts in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, World War II, and the Korean War of 1950-1953.

Jilin Province of China

Jilin is one of the three provinces of Northeast China. Its capital and largest city is Changchun. Jilin borders North Korea and Russia to the east, Heilongjiang to the north, Liaoning to the south, and Inner Mongolia to the west. Along with the rest of Northeast China, Jilin underwent an early period of industrialization. However, Jilin's economy, characterized by heavy industry, has been facing economic difficulties with privatization. This prompted the central government to undertake a campaign called "Revitalize the Northeast". The region contains large deposits of oil shale.

Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture Autonomous prefecture in Jilin, Peoples Republic of China

Yanbian is an autonomous prefecture in the east of Jilin Province, China. Yanbian is bordered to the north by Heilongjiang, on the west by Baishan and Jilin City, on the south by North Korea's North Hamgyong Province and on the east by Primorsky Krai in Russia. Yanbian is designated as a Korean autonomous prefecture due to the large number of ethnic Koreans living in the region. The prefectural capital is Yanji and the total area is 42,700 square kilometres (16,500 sq mi).

Ryanggang Province Province of North Korea

Ryanggang Province is a province in North Korea. The province is bordered by China (Jilin) on the north, North Hamgyong on the east, South Hamgyong on the south, and Chagang on the west. Ryanggang was formed in 1954, when it was separated from South Hamgyŏng. The provincial capital is Hyesan. In South Korean usage, "Ryanggang" is spelled and pronounced as "Yanggang"

Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, or China–North Korea Friendship Bridge, is a bridge across the Amnok River on the China–North Korea border. It connects the cities of Dandong in China and Sinuiju of North Korea, by railway and roadway but pedestrians are not allowed to cross between either side. The bridge serves as one of the few ways to enter or leave North Korea.

Jiandao or Chientao, known in Korean as Gando or Kando, is a historical border region along the north bank of the Tumen River in Jilin province, Northeast China that has a high population of ethnic Koreans. The word Jiandao itself, literally "Middle Island", was initially referred to a shoal in Tumen River between today's Chuankou Village, Kaishantun in Longjing, Jilin, China and Chongsŏng, Onsong County in North Korea. The island was an important landmark for immigrants from the Korean peninsula looking for settlements across the river. As the number of immigrants increased, the area that the word "Jiandao" gradually changed to reflect the areas of Korean settlement.

The 1909 Gando Convention was a treaty signed between Imperial Japan and Qing China in which Japan recognized China's claims to Jiandao, called Gando in Korean, and Paektu Mountain. Japan received railroad concessions in Northeast China ("Manchuria"). After the Surrender of Japan, Gando Convention was de jure nullified. While China took control of Manchuria and the northwestern half of Paektu Mountain, the Korean government north of the 38th Parallel took control of the southeastern half of Paektu Mountain in addition to taking control of the Korean Peninsula north of the 38th Parallel.

Khasan (urban-type settlement) Urban-type settlement in Primorsky Krai, Russia

Khasan is an urban locality in Khasansky District of Primorsky Krai, Russia. It is located near the tripoint on the Tumen River where the borders of Russia, China and North Korea converge. Population: 742 (2010 Census); 795 (2002 Census); 1,187 (1989 Census).

Since the division of Korea after the end of World War II and the end of the Korean War (1950–1953), North Koreans have defected for political, ideological, religious, economic or personal reasons. Such North Koreans are referred to as North Korean defectors. Alternative terms in South Korea include "northern refugees" and "new settlers".

The 1991 Sino-Soviet Border Agreement was a treaty between China and the Soviet Union that set up demarcation work to resolve most of the border disputes between the two states. Initially signed by China and the Soviet Union, the terms of the agreement were resumed by Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The treaty resulted in some minor territorial changes along the border.

Hunchun County-level city in Jilin, Peoples Republic of China

Hunchun is a county-level city in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, far eastern Jilin province. It borders North Korea and Russia, has over 250,000 inhabitants, and covers 5,145 square kilometers. The site of the eastern capital of Balhae/Bohai Kingdom between 785–793, Donggyeong, was located here.

Noktundo is a former island in the delta of the Tumen River on the border between Primorsky Krai, Russia and North Korea. The area of the island was 32 square kilometres (12 sq mi).

Tumen Border Bridge

The Tumen Border Bridge is a bridge over the Tumen River, connecting Tumen City, Jilin Province, China, with Namyang, Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province, North Korea. It was built in 1941 by the Japanese and is 515 metres long, 6 metres high, 6 metres wide. Tumen Border Post is located there. A little upstream from the bridge is Tumen Border Railway Bridge.

China–Russia border

The Chinese–Russian border or the Sino-Russian border is the international border between China and Russia. After the final demarcation carried out in the early 2000s, it measures 4,209.3 kilometres (2,615.5 mi), and is the world's sixth-longest international border.

China–North Korea border Border between the Peoples Republic of China and North Korea

The China–North Korea border is the international border separating the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It runs for 1,352 km from the estuary of the Yalu River in the Korea Bay in the west to the tripoint with Russia in the east.

<i>Dooman River</i>

Dooman River is a 2010 French-South Korean co-production directed by Korean-Chinese filmmaker Zhang Lu.

Thailand has become one of the destinations of choice for North Korean defectors aiming to resettle in third countries, particularly South Korea. Although the Royal Thai Government does not recognize North Korean escapees as refugees, but rather as illegal economic migrants, the Thai government allows North Koreans illegally entering the country to resettle in South Korea. This is possible because South Korea’s domestic law recognizes that North Koreans are also citizens of South Korea. The Thai government also cites the "conveniently blurred geographical distinctions" between the two Koreas in facilitating the transfer and resettlement process.

North Korea–Russia border

The North Korea–Russia border, according to the official Russian definition, consists of 18 kilometres (11 mi) of "terrestrial border" and 22.1 km of "maritime border". It is the shortest of the international borders of Russia.

Jilin–Hunchun intercity railway, also known as Jihun Passenger Dedicated Line, is a high-speed railway operated by China Railway High-speed in Jilin Province. It connects the major city of Jilin City with the eastern city of Hunchun near the border with Russia and North Korea. It will have a total length of 359 km (223 mi) of electrified double-track railways, built to the Grade 1 standard. Project construction started on October 30, 2010, with operations commencing on September 20, 2015. The railway has been described as "Dongbei's most beautiful railway" and "the fastest way to Vladivostok". Reflecting the border location of the city, the new train station has its sign in four languages: Chinese, Korean, Russian, and English. Future prospects could see the line extended to Vladivostok.

China–North Korea–Russia tripoint China–Russia border and North Korea–Russia border intersection point

The China–North Korea–Russia tripoint is the tripoint where the China–Russia border and the North Korea–Russia border intersect. The tripoint is in the Tumen River about 500 meters upstream from Korea Russia Friendship Bridge and under 2,000 meters from the Russian settlement of Khasan.



  1. EB (1878), p. 390.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Onishi, Norimitsu (22 October 2006). "Tension, Desperation: The China-North Korean Border". The New York Times . Much of the information comes from the captions to the large illustrated map published with the newspaper article and available online with it.
  4. "Accord on Tumen River Area Development to Be Signed". Archived from the original on 2019-12-15. Retrieved 2010-01-23.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)(sourced from HighBeam Research)
  5. "Tumen River Area Development Program". Network of East Asian Think-tanks (NEAT). 2009. Archived from the original on 15 January 2015.
  6. Kim, Myung-sung (14 January 2015). 최고 싱크탱크(think tank)도 "두만강 지역 개발하자" [From top think tank: "Let's develop the Tumen River area"]. Chosun News (in Korean). Archived from the original on 15 January 2015.
  7. "JPRI Working Paper No. 53". www.jpri.org.
  8. 1 2 Головнин, В. И. (2008). "Прошлое как оружие (The past as a weapon)". Россия в глобальной политике (in Russian). 6 (35). Archived from the original on 6 December 2010.
  9. "The problem of the Noktundo island in the media in South Korea (Проблема острова Ноктундо в средствах массовой информации Южной Кореи)" (in Russian). ru.apircenter.org. Archived from the original on 10 September 2013. Retrieved 2015-06-30.
  10. 1 2 3 Zhai, Keith & Kim, Sam (14 January 2015). "North Koreans Walk Across Frozen River to Kill Chinese for Food". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on 15 January 2015.
  11. Moon, Sunghui. "North Korea Tightens Security Before Major Military Parade". Translated by Jun, Leejin; Gerin, Roseanne. Radio Free Asia. Archived from the original on January 25, 2018. [...] adding that winter is the optimal time of year for North Koreans who wish to defect to cross the frozen Tumen River that separates the country from China, if security is not too heavy.
  12. Kim, Seon-hee [a.k.a. Sonya] (24 March 2018). "VOD ~ 디지털 KBS" (in Korean). @ 15m 19s mark in video: KBS. [Translation] I heard that the song consoled many of those who lost their families, or had to leave their hometowns under Japanese occupation and during the Korean war. It made me realize the power of music once againCS1 maint: location (link)
  13. Bardot, Nicolas (2010). "La Rivière Tumen". Film de Culte (in French). Retrieved 15 January 2015.