North Korean workers are prepping seafood sold in U.S. stores and restaurants
North Korean workers were found processing salmon for U.S. stores.
Americans buying seafood from U.S. grocery stores or restaurants may unwittingly be helping to fund North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, a new report indicates.
U.S. But according to an investigative report from The Associated Press, North Korea is exporting laborers to processing companies in China.
At large processing plants in Hunchun in Northeast China, North Korean workers prepare and package fish and seafood that is transported back to the U.S. and sold in grocery stores and restaurants. The workers are closely monitored and not allowed to leave without permission. They live at the compound and don’t have privacy, phones, or email. A large portion of those workers’ wages is paid directly to North Korea’s government.
North Korea is banned from exporting many goods, but it’s sending tens of thousands of workers around the world. Those workers receive only a small fraction of their paychecks. The rest of their wages go to North Korea.
AP estimates those could be generating between $200 million and $500 million a year for Kim Jong Un’s government. Those funds “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.”
The report found packages of snow crab, salmon fillets, squid rings, and more that were prepared by North Korean workers in Hunchun and imported by American distributors. Many of the items prepared at the Hunchun plants are in generic packaging meant to be resold or relabeled under different names. Some of the packages at the plant, however, were branded for Walmart or Sea Queen, a house brand of seafood that is sold exclusively at Aldi.
Walmart says it cut ties with the factory a year ago over concerns with forced labor at the Hunchun plant. But because much of the seafood is shipped in generic packaging, it could wind up at other stores, and nobody buying dinner for their family would know where it came from. The possibility of unwittingly funding North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is definitely one of the top 10 reasons to avoid supermarket seafood.