John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, told AP, "While we understand that hiring North Korean workers may be legal in China, we are deeply concerned that any seafood companies could be inadvertently propping up the despotic regime".
German supermarket chain Aldi, which the article said also has imported seafood from Hunchun factories employing North Koreans, did not respond to questions from AFP. They must take the few steps to the factories in pairs or groups, with North Korean minders ensuring no one strays. 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.
There are about 3,000 North Koreans working in the city of Hunchun.
Analysts say the security of North Korea's missiles and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons would be a chief priority for China in the event of a major crisis involving its communist neighbor.
According to an Associated Press investigation, North Korea workers, who are outsourced by dictator Kim Jong Un's regime to work in Chinese factories, help process seafood that ends up in US stores, including Walmart and ALDI.
John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, urged its 300 members to "ensure that wages go to the workers, and are not siphoned off to support a unsafe dictator". Workers receive only a fraction of the money paid to the North Korean government for their work and face punishment if they fail to meet production or work targets. Recent UN sanctions have banned countries from issuing new work permits to North Korea, though they still allow workers already employed to continue working under existing permits.More news: Facing tougher regulations, TransCanada scraps $12 billion oil pipeline
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A worker stacks crates at the Yanbian Shenghai company which hires some North Korean workers to process seafood in Hunchun.
AP reporters followed the seafood those workers package, and discovered over 2,000 tons of snow crab, salmon, squid, and other fish had entered the USA and Canadian food supply this year alone.
Seafood can remain in the supply chain for more than a year. "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.
Aldi said its United Kingdom stores are not linked to the factories.
Some U.S. companies had indirect ties to North Korean laborers in Hunchun.
"Combatting forced labor is a complex problem that no one company, industry, or government can tackle alone", she said.