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The Tumen or Tuman River (Tumannaya) is a 521 km-long river that serves as part of the boundary between Chinamarker, North Koreamarker, and Russiamarker, rising in Mount Baekdumarker and flowing into the Sea of Japanmarker (East Sea) .

The river flows in northeast Asia, on the border between Chinamarker and North Koreamarker in its upper reaches, and between North Koreamarker and Russiamarker in its last 17 kilometres (11 miles) before entering the Sea of Japan. The river forms much of the southern border of Jilin Provincemarker in Manchuria and the northern borders of North Korea's North Hamgyongmarker and Yanggang provinces. Baekdu Mountainmarker 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 Mongolian word tümen, meaning "hundred thousand" or a myriad. This river is badly polluted by the nearby factories of North Koreamarker and China; however, it still remains a major tourist attraction in the area. In Tumen, Jilinmarker, China, a riverfront promenade has restaurants where patrons can gaze across the river into North Korea. Russian name of river is Tumannaya, literally meaning foggy.

Important cities on the river are Hoeryongmarker, Namyangmarker and Onsongmarker in North Korea, Tumenmarker and Nanping in China.

Refugee crossing

The Tumen has been used for years by North Korean refugees defecting across the Chinesemarker 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 DPRKmarker, 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 a New York Times article.

Refugees seldom cross the Tumen into Russiamarker as its government patrols its short stretch of the river more actively than China does its, and the refugees have no large ethnic Korean community in which to hide (see also North Koreans in Russia).


  1. [1] Onishi, Norimitsu, "Tension, Desperation: The China-North Korean Border", October 22, 2006. Much of the information cited in this footnote comes from the captions to the large illustrated map published with the newspaper article and available online with it.

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