North Korean Workers May Have Prepared Your Salmon Fillet

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

The authorities in a northeastern Chinese border city have secretly warned local firms they will be slapped with fines if they newly hire North Korean workers in violation of United Nations sanctions, amounting to 5,000 yuan ($750) per worker, sources familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

But some were already branded in China with familiar names like Walmart or Sea Queen - which is sold exclusively at Aldi supermarkets. North Korea takes up to 70 percent of the wages its workers make overseas, and uses the money to prop up the regime and its $1 billion nuclear weapons program.

"While we understand that hiring North Korean workers may be legal in China", he said, "we are deeply concerned that any seafood companies could be inadvertently propping up the despotic regime".

It is a federal crime to import North Korean products into the United States no matter where they are made, according to a new law signed by President Trump over the summer.

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At a time when North Korea faces sanctions on many exports, the government is sending tens of thousands of workers worldwide, bringing in anywhere from $US200 million to $US500 million ($257 million to 650 million) a year. That could account for a sizeable portion of its nuclear weapons and missile programmes, which South Korea says has cost well over $1 billion.

North Korean workers in China are processing seafood that ends up for sale in American stores, an Associated Press report published Wednesday revealed.

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.

Shipping records show more than 100 cargo containers of seafood were sent to the USA and Canada this year from the factories where North Koreans were working in China. 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. And it's up to corporations to be responsible for their own supply chains.

"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". 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.


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