North Korean workers used by Chinese seafood suppliers, Outlaw Ocean Project finds

Latest report details physical, sexual abuse at seafood processing plants connected to prominent seafood suppliers and retailers
Footage from Donggang Jinhui’s annual meeting in February 2023, posted on social media, showing employees waving miniature North Korean flags.
Footage from Donggang Jinhui’s annual meeting in February 2023, posted on social media, showing employees waving miniature North Korean flags. | Photo courtesy of Douyin/The Outlaw Ocean Project
6 Min

Seafood processed by Chinese companies using labor from North Korea has made its way into international seafood supply chains, according to a new Outlaw Ocean report published in The New Yorker magazine.

The latest story builds on previous work by the Outlaw Ocean Project which discovered evidence of Uyghur labor in the supply chains of prominent seafood companies, retailers, and distributors. The new report details evidence gathered over several months which suggests Chinese seafood processing companies providing seafood for companies in the U.S., Canada, and Europe are using North Korean labor to cut costs – violating United Nations sanctions and laws in the respective countries.

The Outlaw Ocean Project said it assembled a team of investigators to obtain evidence of North Korean workers – primarily women – being forced to work long hours for little pay in long-term contracts. Additionally, it conducted interviews with North Koreans, kept anonymous out of fear of persecution, who detailed the coercion they faced, including threats against their family members if they refused to work, as well as sexual and physical assaults by managers and staff.

“They called me in as if something happened in the room, and then coerced me into sex. They threatened me that, if I don’t comply, then they will send me back, or they will take out money from my living expenses,” one woman told researchers with the Outlaw Ocean Project.

The Outlaw Ocean Project secretly interviewed two dozen North Koreans (twenty workers and four managers) in writing about their time in Chinese factories. This is a photo of a questionnaire returned by a worker who spent two years at a seafood plant in China. | Photo courtesy of the Outlaw Ocean Project

The report named multiple Chinese processing companies as using North Korean labor: Dalian Haiqing Food, Dandong Galicia Seafood, Dandong Hailong Foodstuff, Dandong Omeca Food, Dandong Taifeng Foodstuff, Dandong Taihua Foodstuff, Dandong Yuanyi Refined Seafoods, Donggang Haimeng Foodstuff, Donggang Jinhui Foodstuff, and Donggang Luyuan Food. Most of the companies are located in Dandong, which borders North Korea and is connected to the country by the “Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge,” one of the few land links to North Korea.

Those companies are, in turn, linked to over 100 companies and agencies in the U.S., Canada, and Europe …

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