North Korean Workers Wear 'Brave Face' on Forced Return From China

Yu Vongkiatajorn

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

Yet the AP realized the seafood had gone through Canada, Germany and the European Union first, though it was only able to track specific shipments of seafood linked to North Korean workers.

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. 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.

American companies are not allowed to import products made by North Korean workers anywhere in the world, under a law signed by President Donald Trump in early August.

The workers, 70 percent of whose salary is taken by North Korea's government, are essentially enslaved-they sleep on "metal bunk beds in fluorescent-lit Chinese dormitories", they must travel to the factory in pairs or groups, they have zero privacy, are not allowed to leave the compounds without permission, and have no access to phones or email.

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, urged its 300 members, including the largest seafood importers in the US, to "ensure that wages go to the workers and are not siphoned off to support a risky dictator". Some of that frozen fish in your cart may have been processed by North Koreans working in Chinese factories. Those industries also export to the USA from Hunchun, but AP did not track specific shipments except for seafood.

Every company the AP asked for comment noted that they forbid forced labor. "It's supporting a repressive regime".

For now, involved companies are starting their own investigations, while some already closed deals with suppliers, AP said.

"Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement United Nations security council resolutions is aiding and abetting a unsafe regime", Tillerson said in July after North Korea's successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. "The majority work in Russian Federation and China, but Middle Eastern, African, and other European and Asian countries also host North Korean laborers", the report explained.

On September 12, Beijing ordered no visa extensions and a stricter screening process for new visa issuance for North Korean workers.

Some questionable products include salmon from Walmart or ALDI supermarkets under the brand name "Sea Queen". And it's up to corporations to be responsible for their own supply chains.

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

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

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