US Customs and Border Protection says it is ready to block US imports of seafood as well as any other goods produced by North Korean laborers who work in China.
An Associated Press investigation tracked salmon, squid and cod processed by North Koreans working at Chinese factories and shipped to American stores, including Walmart and ALDI.
The North Korean workers found in Chinese factories aren't allowed to leave, and receive only a fraction of their pay most goes straight to the North Korean state.
This means that American consumers buying seafood labeled "Caught in the USA, Processed in China" may inadvertently be subsidizing the government of Kim Jong Un as it builds nuclear weapons, and also supporting forced labour.
US Customs and Border Protection said it is reviewing the allegations and if warranted, would "pursue all enforcement actions and prohibit goods from importation as appropriate."
The companies that responded also vowed to investigate ties with suppliers.
At this point anything made by North Korean workers anywhere is presumed to be made with forced labor, the State Department said in a statement today.
"North Koreans sent overseas do not have a choice in the work; the government ultimately assigns them and they are not free to change jobs," said the statement, noting that wages and passports are typically withheld by North Korean supervisors.
Republican Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey, who has repeatedly called for tougher enforcement, said the Labor Department has already identified trafficking in 12 sectors of goods exported by China.
"CBP should be stopping every shipment from those sectors and now trafficking-tainted salmon too," he said.
A White House National Security Council spokesman said the North Korean government's scheme to outsource its labor underscores why the United States has pushed for restrictions on North Korean foreign workers.
The spokesman said all countries should, at a minimum, ban companies from bringing in North Korean crews, as pledged in recent United Nations sanctions.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)