|Name origin: Mongolian, "ten thousand" or a myriad|
|Countries||North Korea, China, Russia|
|Mouth||Sea of Japan|
|Length||521 km (324 mi)|
|Mongolian||Түмэн гол, Tümen gol|
|Russian||Туманная река, Tumannaya Reka|
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 Yanggang provinces. Baekdu Mountain on the Chinese-North Korean border is the source of the river, as well as of 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, China, a riverfront promenade has restaurants where patrons can gaze across the river into North Korea. The Russian name of the river is Tumannaya, literally meaning foggy.
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 North Korea, the river is considered the preferred way to cross into China because, unlike the swift, deep and broad 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 rarely cross the Tumen into Russia. This is because Russia's short stretch of the river is far better patrolled than China's stretch. In addition, there is no sizable ethnic Korean community in Russia to receive support from, as opposed to China, which has a larger Korean population. Finally, China is far less inclined to send refugees back to North Korea than Russia is. (see also North Koreans in Russia).
The humanitarian crisis along the Tumen River was dramatized in the award-winning 2009 dramatic feature-length film, Dooman River.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tumen River.|
-  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.
- HighBeam Research - Article: Accord on Tumen River Area Development to Be Signed.