Published: Sat, October 07, 2017
Economy | By Guillermo Lane

North Korean Workers May Have Prepared Your Salmon Fillet

North Korean Workers May Have Prepared Your Salmon Fillet

There's really no way to know, as a consumer, which products are linked to North Korean workers.

Up to 70 per cent of a worker's wage is taken by Kim's government. The United States now considers all forms of North Korean labor slave labor.

For example, according to a new report by the Associated Press, American consumers may be purchasing seafood at grocery stores and in restaurants that was prepared by North Korean workers based in China. 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.

The North Korean workers aren't permitted to mix with the Chinese workers in the same factory, and their speech and movements are tightly controlled and monitored.

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, the largest seafood trade association in the U.S., told AP his group was urging all of its companies to immediately re-examine their supply chains "to ensure that wages go to the workers, and are not siphoned off to support a unsafe dictator".

Besides seafood, AP found North Korean laborers making wood flooring and sewing garments in Chinese factories.

Those industries also export to the United States, but AP did not track specific shipments except for seafood. "And they all promised they were going to take action and, as of today, I'm hearing many are simply cutting off these suppliers", Mendoza says.

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Roughly 3,000 North Koreans are believed to work in Hunchun, which is on the border with North Korea and Russian Federation. "It's supporting a repressive regime".

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.

One importer, The Fishin' Munhall, Pa., said it cut ties with Hunchun processors and got its last shipment this summer. And it's up to corporations to be responsible for their own supply chains.

A worker stacks crates at the Yanbian Shenghai company which hires some North Korean workers to process seafood in Hunchun.

"Combatting forced labor is a complex problem that no one company, industry, or government can tackle alone", she said, adding Wal-Mart was working with industry groups, governments, other retailers and NGOs to "create lasting, sustainable change".

German supermarket chain Aldi, which the article said also has imported seafood from Hunchun factories employing North Koreans, did not respond to questions from AFP.

The exact number of North Korean laborers overseas is unknown, but estimates are in the tens of thousands.

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