07 October, 2017
"Since North Korean media keep saying that the country is strong in spite of US pressure exerted through sanctions, it can be speculated that the appearance of the returning workers is being directed by the North Korean regime", he said.
Some questionable products include salmon from Walmart or ALDI supermarkets under the brand name "Sea Queen". They must take the few steps to the factories in pairs or groups, with North Korean minders ensuring no one strays. And they are paid a fraction of their salaries, while the rest-as much as 70 percent-is taken by North Korea's government.
It is said that the Chinese authorities have recently intensified monitoring the visa status of North Koreans working in seafood processing, as well as clothing and electronic parts factories, in Dandong, Yanji and other cities.
American importers who use North Korean products could potentially find themselves facing criminal charges: Importing products made by North Korean workers anywhere in the world is a federal crime, following a new law signed by President Trump in early August. The jobs, which are highly sought after by North Korean citizens, can generate an estimated $200 to $500 million a year for the regime. That could account for a sizeable portion of its nuclear weapons and missile programmes, which South Korea says has cost well over $1 billion.
Western companies involved that responded to AP said forced labor and potential support for North Korea was unacceptable in their supply chains.
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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". 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. Many pledged to investigate, others said they already cut ties with some suppliers.
"Combating forced labour is a complex problem that no one company, industry, or government can tackle alone", she said.
The measures taken by the city government will "have a big impact because we had been able to hire North Korean workers on the cheap", said a senior official of a factory in Dandong that now employs North Korean workers.
The exact number of North Korean laborers overseas is unknown, but estimates are in the tens of thousands.
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. 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.