AP report: Seafood shipped to Walmart, ALDI prepped by North Korean workers

Published on
October 5, 2017

An Associated Press report Wednesday indicated that some American seafood consumers may be unwittingly supporting North Korea.

The article highlighted a group of North Korean workers living in Hunchun, China. In the northeastern Chinese city that borders both North Korea and Russia, AP reporters found workers processing snow crab, salmon fillets, and squid rings for a company that provides products for both Walmart and ALDI. Most of the workers’ wages are kept by the North Korean government. 

“While the presence of North Korean workers overseas has been documented, the AP investigation reveals for the first time that some products they make go to the United States, which is now a federal crime,” the AP reported, also noting that products were also being shipped to Canada and Europe.

Some of the seafood packaged in Hunchun was already labeled to sell at Walmart or with the Sea Queen brand, which is sold at ALDI stores. A Walmart spokeswoman told the AP that the company had learned of labor issues regarding the Hunchun plant and that it banned suppliers from getting products there.

The Fishin’ Company, a Walmart supplier, told AP reporters it cut ties with the Chinese processer and received its last shipment earlier this summer. The AP also found orders by American distributor Sea-Trek Enterprises, which also told the AP it planned to investigate the matter.

SeafoodSource.com reached out to ALDI for comment but had not yet heard back from the company as of Thursday morning.

The report comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and North Korea remain tense, due to the Asian country’s push to develop nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader, has also threatened using such weapons against American or allied targets. It also comes at a time when the Trump administration has been calling on China to exert more pressure on its neighbor.

The labor program could generate as much as USD 500 million (EUR 425.2 million) in annual revenue for North Korea, according to the AP article.

In August, the United States pushed the United Nations Security Council to ban North Korea from exporting select products, including seafood. The measure also kept member nations from increasing the number of North Korean nationals working in their countries. 

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