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fishing for funds

Purchasing seafood in some American stores may inadvertently fund North Korean nuclear weapons

North Korean workers in China are processing seafood that ends up for sale in American stores, an Associated Press report published Wednesday revealed. The foods end up in U.S. retailers including Walmart and Aldi.

AP reporters made the discovery while observing a seafood processing plant in China that exports fish to American stores. The North Korean government sends workers to countries including China, Poland, Russia, Uruguay, and the Gulf states to work in a variety of industries, then strips them of a portion of their salaries — sometimes up to 70 percent. North Korean minders ensure that workers do not have access to phones or email and that workers walk between the dormitory and their jobs in pairs— conditions that many in the U.S. would refer to as "modern slavery."

The money that the North Korean regime skims off workers' salaries could be funding its nuclear efforts, AP said:

At a time when North Korea faces sanctions on many exports, the government is sending tens of thousands of workers worldwide, bringing in revenue estimated at anywhere from $200 million to $500 million a year. That could account for a sizable portion of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, which South Korea says have cost more than $1 billion. [The Associated Press]

U.N. sanctions prevent North Korea from obtaining work permits for new workers abroad, but do nothing to constrict the workforce already overseas. John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, told AP, "While we understand that hiring North Korean workers may be legal in China, we are deeply concerned that any seafood companies could be inadvertently propping up the despotic regime."

Read the full report at The Associated Press.