North Korean workers in China are reportedly making products intended for grocery stores in the United States, including seafood, wood flooring, and sewing garments.
The news comes from an AP investigation, which also tracked products that go to Canada, Germany, and countries within the European Union. In this way, Americans may have been cluelessly subsidizing North Korea’s nuclear program, which has largely been condemned by the international community. The trade is illegal under a new law signed by President Donald Trump in August, which prohibits American companies from importing goods made by North Koreans anywhere in the world. Offenders may face criminal charges. Some questionable products include salmon from Walmart or ALDI supermarkets under the brand name “Sea Queen”.
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The report comes at a time when North Korea, under numerous sanctions, is banned from selling virtually anything. The country seemingly attempts to solve the problem by sending manpower overseas. AP specifically found North Koreans working in Hunchun, a city in northeastern China’s Jilin Province. Some 3,000 North Koreans are believed to work in the area.
The workers reportedly have zero privacy and access to telephone or electronic communication. Meanwhile, up to 70% of their salaries go straight to Kim Jong-Un’s government.
China is expected to close all North Korean businesses in the country by January, but the fate of North Korean workers remains unclear. China is no longer importing coal, iron, lead ore, seafood, and textiles from Pyongyang.
North Korea’s overseas workers are approximately bringing in between $200 million to $500 million every year, a portion of which is likely used to fund the country’s weapons. South Korea estimates that the nuclear program is worth more than $1 billion.
For now, involved companies are starting their own investigations, while some already closed deals with suppliers, AP said.