The North Korean refugee crisis is a long-standing political issue that has persisted since the Korean War, resulting in thousands of North Koreans fleeing each year. However, despite its persistent nature, both the Chinese government and the international community have failed to alleviate systematic migratory issues resulting from Chinese policy towards the refugees. This essay aims to analyze Chinese policy towards the North Korean refugee crisis, specifically through its categorization of North Koreans as “economic migrants” rather than refugees. After reviewing both the conditions within North Korea that cause refugee flight and the pathways of escape through China, the paper shows that China is violating multiple parts of international refugee law as set up by the 1951 Refugee Convention, such as issues of non-refoulement and discrimination. Additionally, I argue that North Koreans are refugees in the traditional definition and refugees sur place. Similarly, this paper discusses the historical and political reasoning for Chinese policy towards refugees in the context of its economic and security relationship with the North Korean state, as well as the implications of the relationships for North Korean refugees. From this, the resilient nature of the crisis is established, as well as the notable security obstacles that must be navigated and incorporated in any feasible solutions. Finally, this paper proposes possible solutions to the crisis, such as moving away from “defector” terminology, linking international policy to refugee outcomes, structuring refugee law around global burden-sharing rather than regional prioritizations, and expanding the definition of refugee to more accurately reflect causes of displacement in Asia.