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

Yu Vongkiatajorn

Yu Vongkiatajorn

The news comes from an AP investigation, which also tracked products that go to Canada, Germany, and countries within the European Union.

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

They receive a small fraction of their salaries, while the rest, which can be as much as 70%, goes to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's government.

China's implementation of new sanctions punishing North Korea for its nuclear and missile programs is now "literally expelling North Korean workers", a resident of China's border city of Dandong told RFA's Korean Service on Wednesday.

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. "Many North Korean laborers sent by the government to work overseas under bilateral contracts with foreign governments also face conditions of forced labor ..." That could account for a sizable portion of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, which South Korea says have cost more than $1 billion.

Every company the AP asked for comment noted that they forbid forced labor. "And they all promised they were going to take action and, as of today, I'm hearing many are simply cutting off these suppliers", Mendoza says.

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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".

United Nations sanctions prevent North Korea from obtaining work permits for new workers abroad, but do nothing to constrict the workforce already overseas.

A rather unusual Associated Press report explaining how fish produced in China and sold in the USA may be generating economic support for North Korea's weapons programs offered rare insight into North Korean slavery.

In late September, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eight North Korean banks and 26 executives, targeting North Koreans working as representatives of North Korean banks in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates. Aldi in Australia said it does not source any products from the factories in question. And it's up to corporations to be responsible for their own supply chains.

"Combatting forced labor is a complex problem that no one company, industry, or government can tackle alone", she said, adding Wal-Mart was working with industry groups, governments, other retailers and NGOs to "create lasting, sustainable change".

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