Among the affected products is seafood distributed by the Fishin' Company (a Walmart supplier), Sea-Trek Enterprises (a Rhode Island company that sells to supermarkets and food-service companies in the USA and dozens of other countries), and Sea Queen (a brand exclusive to Aldi, which is now up to 1,600 locations in 35 states).
It's hard to make a buck in North Korea, so the country sends workers overseas, requiring them to send at least 70% of their salaries back to the North Korean government.
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 USA stores, including Walmart and ALDI. That 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. Yet the AP realized the seafood had gone through Canada, Germany and the European Union first, though it was only able to track specific shipments of seafood linked to North Korean workers.
In late September, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on eight North Korean banks and 26 executives, targeting North Koreans working as representatives of North Korean banks in China, Russia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.
Besides seafood, AP found North Korean labourers making wood flooring and sewing garments in Chinese factories.
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In particular, the investigation traced the supply chain of certain packages of seafood, like salmon, which are processed by North Korean workers at Chinese companies, and then imported from China by American distributors.
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 risky dictator". Many pledged to investigate, others said they already cut ties with some suppliers.
Roughly 3,000 North Koreans are believed to work in Hunchun, which is on the border with North Korea and Russian Federation.
Seafood can remain in the supply chain for more than a year.
Walmart spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said company officials banned their suppliers from getting seafood processed at a Hunchun plant a year ago after an audit revealed potential issues with migrant workers.