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

AMERICAN shoppers buying seafood from Aldi and Walmart may have inadvertently subsidised North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, a shock investigation claims. "We can spot many North Korean workers at Dandong Station and the immigration office waiting to go home".

But some were already branded in China with familiar names like Walmart or Sea Queen - which is sold exclusively at Aldi supermarkets. North Korean minders ensure that workers do not have access to phones or email and that workers walk between the dormitory and their jobs in pairs- conditions that many in the USA would refer to as "modern slavery". And they are paid a fraction of their salaries, while the rest - as much as 70 percent - is taken by North Korea's government ...

There are about 3,000 North Koreans working in the city of Hunchun. The United States now considers all forms of North Korean labor slave labor.

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

John Connelly, president of the largest seafood trade association in the US, 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 risky dictator".

Walmart said it had already banned their suppliers from getting seafood processed at a Hunchun plant, in China, after an audit revealed "labour problems".

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Based on the U.N. Security Council resolution adopted on August 5 banning U.N. members from increasing the number of North Korean laborers working overseas, the city has notified the firms that it will impose a 5,000 yuan penalty for each new worker hired on August 5 or later, and will deport them back to North Korea, according to the sources.

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

Despite AP seeing North Korean workers, Hunchun Dongyang's manager Zhu Qizhen denied that they hire them and refused to give details. But the AP notes that the seafood could remain in the supply chain for "more than a year".

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Aldi hasn't explained what its deal is yet, but the company's branches outside of America are already distancing themselves from tainted USA salmon supplies, regardless: Aldi Australia reassured the Australian today that it "operates independently" from America, but "did not respond" when prompted to guarantee that no seafood had ever been processed by North Korean forced laborers.

  • Kelly Blake