North Koreans outsourced by their government are preparing seafood in China that ends up in American stores and homes, the report said. As much as 70 percent of their pay is taken by the North Korean government, the article said.
Tens of thousands of workers are thought to be sent away by Kim to bring in £350m a year for the hermit state.
Securing North Korea's missile launchers and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons sites would likely be a chief priority for China in the event of a major crisis involving its communist neighbour, analysts say, although Beijing so far is keeping mum on any plans.
American importers who use North Korean products could potentially find themselves facing criminal charges: Importing products made by North Korean workers anywhere in the world is a federal crime, following a new law signed by President Trump in early August.
"Since North Korean media keep saying that the country is strong in spite of USA pressure exerted through sanctions, it can be speculated that the appearance of the returning workers is being directed by the North Korean regime", he said.
Besides seafood, AP found North Korean labourers making wood flooring and sewing garments in factories in Hunchun. Those industries also export to the USA from Hunchun, but AP did not track specific shipments except for seafood. 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 US would refer to as "modern slavery".
"Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement United Nations security council resolutions is aiding and abetting a unsafe regime", Tillerson said in July after North Korea's successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. They said they'd investigate, and some said they'd already cut off ties with suppliers. The AP says about 3,000 are now employed at seafood-packing facilities in Hunchun, a northern China city just a few miles from the North Korean and Russian borders. "It's supporting a repressive regime".
At some factories, laborers worked hunched over tables as North Korean political slogans blasted from loudspeakers.
It's unknown what conditions are like in every factory, but AP reporters saw North Korean laborers living and working in several facilities, including joint venture Hunchun Dongyang Seafood Industry & Trade Co. The products were sold under the brand names of Walmart and Sea Queen, a house brand of Aldi.
Spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said: "Combating forced labour is a complex problem that no one company, industry, or government can tackle alone".
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.
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