April 21, 2018

North Korean Slave Labor Used to Process Fish Sold in US Stores

07 October 2017, 12:21 | Lorenzo Hawkins

North Korean Workers Are Reportedly Preparing Seafood For Stores And Restaurants In The United States

Purchasing seafood in some American stores may inadvertently fund North Korean nuclear weapons

Aldi and Walmart were both identified as sellers of fish using North Korean labor, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

AP tracked such products to the US, Canada, Germany and elsewhere in the European Union.

The report states that seafood from the Hunchun plants was sold to Walmart and also under the Sea Queen brand, which is sold exclusively at Aldi supermarkets. They must take the few steps to the factories in pairs or groups, with North Korean minders ensuring no one strays. They sleep in metal bunks and work 72-hour weeks processing fish for as little as 46 cents an hour, because Pyongyang keeps somewhere between half and 70 percent of their pay. The scene along the China-North Korea border provides some clues. The United States now considers all forms of North Korean labor slave labor.

At a time when North Korea is banned from selling nearly anything, the country is sending tens of thousands of workers worldwide to bring in an estimated $200 million to $500 million a year.

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 potentially supporting North Korea's weapons program was unacceptable in their supply chains.

John Connelly, president of the largest seafood trade association in the USA, said the National Fisheries Institute was strongly encouraging all of its companies to investigate their supply chains "to ensure that wages to the workers, and are not siphoned off to support a unsafe dictator".

Based on the U.N. Security Council resolution adopted on August 5 banning U.N. members from increasing the number of North Korean laborers working overseas, the city has notified the firms that it will impose a 5,000 yuan penalty for each new worker hired on August 5 or later, and will deport them back to North Korea, according to the sources. "We can hypothesise that they might, but, as the observation goes, those who know don't say and those who say probably don't know", he said. Aldi in Australia said it does not source any products from the factories in question.

In late September, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eight North Korean banks and 26 executives, targeting North Koreans working as representatives of North Korean banks in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.

Seafood can remain in the supply chain for more than a year.

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