The discovery on July 25 of 75 stowaways crammed into a poorly ventilated vessel in the northeastern port city of Dalian disproves the logic of stereotyping mainlanders who risk their lives in the hands of smugglers or 'snakeheads' in search of riches abroad. All the stowaways were ethnic North Korean Chinese farmers heading for South Korea rather than from Fujian heading to Europe and the US. 'While ethnic North Korean Chinese can legally obtain visas to come to South Korea, most aren't able to meet our requirements. So they come illegally,' said an official surnamed Baik in the legal department of the South Korean Embassy in Beijing. 'For many, South Korea is just the most practical and inexpensive country for illegal Chinese migrants.' A report in the Beijing Youth Daily yesterday said 35 ethnic North Korean men and 40 women hailing from Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces paid 50,000 yuan (HK$47,000) each for the trip to South Korea. 'When I saw what a decrepit wooden boat it was I didn't want to get on. But then someone angrily said: 'Don't dawdle, get on board quickly. It's too late to turn back and there's no way out for you now',' a survivor named Li told the newspaper. The report said that when Dalian border patrol Chief Geng Yongfeng initially examined the vessel he found nothing wrong because all 75 stowaways had been crammed into such a small, sealed 10-metre-square cabin near the bottom of the ship. Ms Li said she and others felt dizzy and nauseous through lack of air, seasickness and the cramped conditions. She said many people lapsed into unconsciousness. 'The stench inside the cabin was just horrible to endure. But no one on the boat came to check on us and no one ever gave us food or water,' she said. 'I believe that if the boat hadn't been captured, we would all be dead now.' A young woman named Liu said: 'I heard that it was easy to make money in South Korea and that life there wasn't very tiring. I was really excited to go. I just never thought it would end up like this.' Depending on their condition, the 75 illegal immigrants were taken to hospital or to the police station. Several other smuggling attempts from Dalian were cracked earlier in July, with 144 illegals captured.