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Your mom’s love of cheap salmon may have paid for North Korea’s nukes

Your mom’s love of cheap salmon may have paid for North Korea’s nukes
[Photo: Agto Nugroho]

Americans’ love of bargain salmon may have accidentally subsidized the North Korean government’s nuclear weapons program, an AP investigation has discovered. Oops?

Actually, save that “oops” for a second, because there’s more: Not only did your healthy salmon dinner potentially fund North Korea’s nukes, but the people who packed up the salmon to sell to Walmart or Aldi may have been modern-day slaves. Oops, indeed.

It’s hard to make a buck in North Korea, so the country sends workers overseas, requiring them to send at least 70% of their salaries back to the North Korean government. They work construction in the Gulf, build ships in Poland, log in Russia, and crew fishing vessels in Uruguay. In China, they work in factories, like the one in Hunchun, which is where the AP saw your salmon get packed and shipped in slave-like conditions.   

While North Korean workers can’t get new work permits due to UN sanctions, workers who are already abroad can still work, although the products they make aren’t supposed to be imported into the U.S. However, the AP found North Korean laborers packing seafood bound for the States, as well as Canada, Germany, and other countries in the UN. The workers in Hunchun were also making wood flooring and sewing garments, but the AP did not track those shipments.

In response to the AP’s investigation, fish importers promised to take action. Senate leaders restated the fact that the U.S. needs to keep products made by North Koreans out of the country and they hope to convince China to stop hiring North Korean workers. Read the full investigation here while figuring out what to make instead of salmon for dinner.

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