North Korean workers process salmon, snow crab shipped to US

07 October, 2017, 00:22 | Author: Celia Hoffman
  • North Korean Coal import

AMERICAN shoppers buying seafood from Aldi and Walmart may have inadvertently subsidised North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, a shock investigation claims.

Shipping records showed that more than 100 cargo containers with more than 2,000 tons of salmon, snow crab and other fish were sent to the U.S. and Canada from factories where North Koreans worked, AP said. Among the affected products is seafood distributed by the Fishin' Company (a Walmart supplier), Sea-Trek Enterprises (a Rhode Island company that sells to supermarkets and food-service companies in the US and dozens of other countries), and Sea Queen (a brand exclusive to Aldi, which is now up to 1,600 locations in 35 states).

Workers at the plant are not allowed to leave the compounds without permission and have no access to telephones or email.

Roughly 70 percent of all trade between China and North Korea is said to pass through the border city in Liaoning Province. Workers receive only a fraction of the money paid to the North Korean government for their work and face punishment if they fail to meet production or work targets.

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 sizable portion of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, which South Korea says have cost more than $1 billion. A Walmart rep says they learned about this whole fiasco in an audit "a year go", and made a decision to ban Hunchun fish at some indefinite subsequent date.

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, the largest seafood trade association in the USA, 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".

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"Instead of making the goods in North Korea and trying to export them, which wouldn't work because of sanctions regime, you export the North Koreans", said Former Ambassador to Monitor & Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca.

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

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

Despite AP seeing North Korean workers, Hunchun Dongyang's manager Zhu Qizhen denied that they hire them and refused to give details.

Information for this article was contributed by Martha Mendoza, Leonardo Haberkorn, Han Guan Ng, Fu Ting, Kelvin K. Chan, Frank Jordans and Jon Gambrell of The Associated Press.

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