Chinese city to penalize firms that newly hire N. Korean workers

Posted October 07, 2017

Without even realizing it, Americans who purchase salmon from two major US supermarkets may have subsidized North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

North Korean workers make clothing and numerous other products in Chinese factories.

Some questionable products include salmon from Walmart or ALDI supermarkets under the brand name "Sea Queen".

It's also claimed that North Korean workers aren't allowed to leave their compounds in the Chinese factories without permission or their North Korean minders. 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.

Roughly 3,000 North Koreans are believed to work in Hunchun, which is on the border with North Korea and Russian Federation. The United States now considers all forms of North Korean labor slave labor.

In an attempt to combat sanctions, North Korea has exported thousands of its workers overseas, and some of them have ended up in seafood processing companies that ship to countries around the world, including the US.

Analysts say the security of North Korea's missiles and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons would be a chief priority for China in the event of a major crisis involving its communist neighbor.

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

The AP reached out to the Western companies involved, and each one agreed they would not tolerate modern day slavery and the potential support of Kim Jong Un's oppressive regime in their supply chains.

China ordered a stricter screening process for new visa issuance for North Korean workers while prohibiting visa extensions in mid-September.

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

North Korean workers forced from China by canceled labor contracts are wearing bright smiles and colorful clothes in an apparent show of defiance as tightened United Nations sanctions take hold against Pyongyang, sources on the border say.

Aldi said its United Kingdom stores are not linked to the factories.

"It is unbelievable that they would be going home in bright outfits with these smiles on their faces", RFA's source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said: "Combating forced labour is a complex problem that no one company, industry, or government can tackle alone". Customs records indicate that Chicken of the Sea, owned by Thai Union, did business with sister companies of the Hunchun factories in another part of China.