North Korean workers make clothing and numerous other products in Chinese factories.
But some were already branded in China with familiar names like Walmart or Sea Queen - which is sold exclusively at Aldi supermarkets. North Korean minders ensure that workers do not have access to phones or email and that workers walk between the dormitory and their jobs in pairs- conditions that many in the USA would refer to as "modern slavery". They sleep in metal bunks and work 72-hour weeks processing fish for as little as 46 cents an hour, because Pyongyang keeps somewhere between half and 70 percent of their pay. "The majority work in Russian Federation and China, but Middle Eastern, African, and other European and Asian countries also host North Korean laborers", the report explained.
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.
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.
John Connelly, president of the largest seafood trade association in the USA, said the National Fisheries Institute was strongly encouraging all of its companies to investigate their supply chains "to ensure that wages to the workers, and are not siphoned off to support a risky dictator".
Every Western company involved that responded to AP's requests for comment said forced labor and potential support for North Korea's weapons program were unacceptable in their supply chains. Workers' salaries are appropriated and deposited into accounts controlled by the North Korean government. New U.N. sanctions bar countries from expanding their North Korean workforce.
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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.
Aldi said its United Kingdom stores are not linked to the factories.
Seafood can remain in the supply chain for more than a year.
Spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said: "Combating forced labour is a complex problem that no one company, industry, or government can tackle alone".
What would make China exert itself to control North Korea would be the real threat of a nuclear-armed South Korea and Japan.
That's according to a shock report made by the Associated Press.