Without even realizing it, Americans who purchase salmon from two major US supermarkets may have subsidized North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
Some questionable products include salmon from Walmart or ALDI supermarkets under the brand name "Sea Queen".
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. 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. The AP says about 3,000 are now employed at seafood-packing facilities in Hunchun, a northern China city just a few miles from the North Korean and Russian borders. They say American dollars should not be supporting the North Korean state or rewarding slave labor.
At a time when North Korea faces sanctions on many exports, it sends of tens of thousands of workers around the world bringing revenue into North estimated at anywhere from $200 million to $500 million. That could account for a sizeable portion of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, which South Korea says have cost more than $US1 billion.
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".
"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. Many pledged to investigate, others said they already cut ties with some suppliers.
North Korean workers in China are processing seafood that ends up for sale in American stores, an Associated Press report published Wednesday revealed.
Aldi said its United Kingdom stores are not linked to the factories.
On September 12, Beijing ordered no visa extensions and a stricter screening process for new visa issuance for North Korean workers. But the AP notes that the seafood could remain in the supply chain for "more than a year". Thai Union said the sister company they do business with meets all of their fair labor standards, and should not be penalized just because they have the same owner.