Americans buying seafood for dinner may inadvertently have subsidized the North Korean government as it builds its nuclear weapons program, an AP investigation has found. Their purchases may also have supported forced labor. At a time when North Korea is banned from selling almost anything, the country is sending tens of thousands of workers worldwide to bring in an estimated $200 million to $500 million a year. That could account for a sizable portion of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs. While North Korean workers have been documented overseas, the investigation reveals that some products they make go to the US. AP also tracked products made by North Korean workers to Canada, Germany, and elsewhere in the European Union.
At Chinese factories, North Korean workers aren't allowed to leave their compounds without permission, and must step from housing to factories in pairs or groups, with North Korean minders. They receive a fraction of their salaries, while the rest—as much as 70%—is taken by the North Korean government. Shipping records show more than 100 cargo containers of seafood were sent to the US and Canada this year from the factories where North Koreans were working in China, including packages of snow crab, salmon fillets, and squid rings. Often the fish arrives in generic packaging. But some were already branded in China with familiar names like Walmart or Sea Queen, which is sold exclusively at ALDI supermarkets. Read the full investigative piece here. (Read more seafood stories.)