Aldi stores in the US have been selling seafood processed in North Korea to American consumers who could be inadvertently subsidising the regime, an Associated Press investigation has revealed.
Sales of salmon being prepared by North Korean workers at Aldi and Walmart customers could be assisting the North Korean government as it builds its nuclear weapons program.
In the AP exclusive report, it is alleged that the workers – outsourced by their government – are not permitted to leave the compounds without permission, privacy is forbidden, they have no access to phones or email and they are paid a fraction of their salaries.
The North Korean government is collecting up to 70 per cent of their income, according to AP.
“The workers wake up each morning on metal bunk beds in fluorescent-lit Chinese dormitories,” the report read.
“When a reporter approached a group of North Koreans — women in tight, bright polyester clothes preparing their food at a Hunchun (China) garment factory — one confirmed that she and some others were from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
“Then a minder arrived, ordering the workers to be silent: ‘Don’t talk to him!'”
Shifts can last up to 12 hours and most workers have only one day off each week, with some factories blasting North Korean political slogans from waist-high loudspeakers.
North Korea sends thousands of workers worldwide to bring in an estimated revenue of up to $US500 million ($A636 million) each year, while it faces sanctions on many exports.
It is understood this money has contributed to the funding of its nuclear weapons and missile programs, which South Korea claims has cost more than $US1 billion ($A1.272 billion).
While North Korea’s outsourcing of workers is well documented, this investigation has shown the first evidence of some products being sold to the US market.
AP also tracked North Korean products to Canada and Germany, and other European countries.
AP identified three seafood processors that employ North Koreans and export to the US: Joint venture Hunchun Dongyang Seafood Industry and Trade Co Ltd and Hunchun Pagoda Industry Co Ltd distributed globally by Ocean One Enterprise; Yantai Dachen Hunchun Seafood Products, and Yanbian Shenghai Industry and Trade Co Ltd.
“American companies are not allowed to import products made by North Korean workers anywhere in the world, under a law signed by President Donald Trump in early August,” the report read.
“Importers or company officials could face criminal charges for using North Korean workers or materially benefiting from their work, according to the law.”
Asked by The New Daily whether Aldi Australia sells any products processed by North Korea, a spokesman said: “Aldi Australia does not have a relationship with the product, suppliers, or factories mentioned in the AP reports.”