Markets

N. Korean workers process seafood in China for United States stores, restaurants

N. Korean workers process seafood in China for United States stores, restaurants

AP tracked products made by North Korean workers to America, Canada, Germany and elsewhere in the European Union.

Per the AP's report, some brands of salmon found in Walmart and ALDI stores was linked to North Korean workers based in China. They must take the few steps to the factories in pairs or groups, with North Korean minders ensuring no one strays. The North Korean government sends workers to countries including China, Poland, Russia, Uruguay, and the Gulf states to work in a variety of industries, then strips them of a portion of their salaries - sometimes up to 70 percent. "The majority work in Russian Federation and China, but Middle Eastern, African, and other European and Asian countries also host North Korean laborers", the report explained. They say American dollars should not be supporting the North Korean state or rewarding slave labor.

AP said Hunchun was part of a broader effort by Pyongyang to disperse tens of thousands of workers around the world in various industries, bringing in an estimated $200 to $500 million annually and bolstering North Korea's nuclear program.

Securing North Korea's missile launchers and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons sites would likely be a chief priority for China in the event of a major crisis involving its communist neighbour, analysts say, although Beijing so far is keeping mum on any plans.

Every Western company involved that responded to AP's requests for comment said forced labor and potential support for North Korea's weapons program were unacceptable in their supply chains.

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, urged its 300 members to "ensure that wages go to the workers, and are not siphoned off to support a unsafe dictator".

North Korean workers first arriving in China don't wear portrait badges of former national leaders Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il, RFA's source said. Recent UN sanctions have banned countries from issuing new work permits to North Korea, though they still allow workers already employed to continue working under existing permits. There's no way to say where a particular package ends up, nor what percentage of a factory's products wind up in the U.S. But the AP notes that the seafood could remain in the supply chain for "more than a year".

A rather unusual Associated Press report explaining how fish produced in China and sold in the US may be generating economic support for North Korea's weapons programs offered rare insight into North Korean slavery.

Some U.S. companies had indirect ties to North Korean laborers in Hunchun.


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