North Korean Workers May Have Prepared Your Salmon Fillet

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

As a result, "Americans buying seafood for dinner may inadvertently have subsidized the North Korean government as it builds its nuclear weapons program", the AP report states. The seafood products also end up in Canada, Germany, and parts of the European Union. The products were sold under the brand names of Walmart and Sea Queen, a house brand of Aldi.

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

Roughly 3000 North Koreans are believed to work in Hunchun, a far northeast Chinese industrial hub near the borders of both North Korea and Russian Federation. 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.

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. South Korea estimates that the nuclear program is worth more than $1 billion.

Western companies involved that responded to AP said forced labor and potential support for North Korea was unacceptable in their supply chains.

"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.

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".

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North Korean workers first arriving in China don't wear portrait badges of former national leaders Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il, RFA's source said. Aldi in Australia said it does not source any products from the factories in question.

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

A law signed by President Donald Trump in August forbids American companies to to import products made by North Korean workers anywhere in the world.

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

"Combating forced labour is a complex problem that no one company, industry, or government can tackle alone", she said.

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

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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