US Customs vows to block imports made by North Korea workers

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 7:36 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 7:35 PM

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 Korean laborers working abroad 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 labor.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement Thursday 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.

GOP 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 Thursday 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.

China is among the countries that have promised to comply, already banning imports of North Korean seafood, and saying no more North Korean workers will be allowed starting next year.

"But all nations must go further and reject what is clearly a despicable practice that only serves the regime's nuclear ambitions," said the NSC spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to comment.

Walmart said its supplier has addressed the problem, although it did not specify how. Walmart and ALDI said they are committed to human rights and fair labor practices, and expect the same from their business partners.

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.

North Koreans overseas work in construction in the Gulf states, shipbuilding in Poland, logging in Russia. In Uruguay, authorities told AP, about 90 North Koreans crewed fishing boats last year.

"I am not surprised at all," said Anthony Talbott, who directs the University of Dayton's Human Rights Center. "North Korea has probably the single highest level of state-sanctioned slavery in the world, it's a major source of income for them."

Among those North Korean laborers in China, roughly 3,000 are believed to work in the northeast industrial hub of Hunchun, just a few miles from the borders of both North Korea and Russia. AP documented North Koreans in several Hunchun seafood processing plants, and tracked their supply chains to importers, including Sea-Trek Enterprises in Rhode Island, where managers said they are being inundated with phone calls from customers and suppliers since the AP story.

Sea-Trek's owners said that they hadn't visited China and were unaware of the makeup of the workers, but would immediately cease dealings with the plant until the situation is resolved.

"Sea-Trek will not purchase product from any company using forced labor," said vice president Mitch Sarnoff.

Mark Liszt, owner of Lawrence Wholesale, a national food distributor in Southern California, said it would investigate its suppliers as well.

"We're middlemen," said Liszt. "We do make a practice of trying to go and visit the plants that we buy from in person, but it's not a perfect world that we can see into every single one."

Some U.S. brands and companies had indirect ties to the North Korean laborers in Hunchun, including Chicken of the Sea, owned by Thai Union. Trade records show shipments came from a sister company of the Hunchun factory in another part of China, where Thai Union spokeswoman Whitney Small says labor standards are being met and the employees are all Chinese. Small said the sister company should not be penalized.

AP observed North Korean workers in Chinese factories building hardwood flooring, sewing garments and manufacturing electronics. Fordham University economics professor Giacomo Santangelo said he doubts it's just fish processed by North Korean workers that reaches the U.S. markets.

"Now we need to ask, how many other products imported from China are made with North Korean labor?" he said.

Top senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York said U.S. officials must keep products made by North Koreans out of the United States.

"The Administration needs to ramp up the pressure on China to crack down on trade with North Korea across the board," he said.

Ohio's Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who helped pass North Korea, Iran and Russia sanctions this summer, said corporations also have a responsibility to make sure they are abiding by UN Sanctions and U.S. laws.

However, Bucknell University political science professor Zhiqun Zhu said a sanction-based approach that cracks down on imports isn't going to solve the problem.

"It has so many loopholes," he said. "All sticks and no carrots will not make the North Korea problem disappear."

___

Read more in the series: https://www.apnews.com/tag/RepublicofKim

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Police investigate reports of shots fired at California retirement home

Published: Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 9:35 AM
Updated: Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 9:35 AM

Shooting at California Retirement Home

Authorities were called to a senior housing community in Long Beach early Monday after shots were reportedly heard in the area, according to multiple reports.

 

Here is the latest information:

Update 9:35 a.m. EDT June 25:  Fire officials told KTLA that two firefighters and a civilian were injured Monday morning at a California retirement home where shots were heard early Monday.

The extent and cause of their injuries were not immediately known.

Update 9:20 a.m. EDT June 25: Long Beach police confirmed to KCBS-TV that officers were responding to reports of a shooting Monday morning at Covenant Manor on E. 4th Street.

“All I can confirm at this time is that there has been a shooting,” Long Beach police Sgt. Brad Johnson told KCBS-TV. “(It’s) not an active shooter situation. (The) investigation is ongoing.”

Update 8:55 a.m. EDT June 25: Authorities continued Monday morning to search the retirement home, identified by KCBS-TV as Covenant Manor. 

The news station reported authorities were called just after 4 a.m. to a report of an explosion and shooting at the building, however, officials did not immediately confirm the report.

Two people told KTLA they heard what sounded like gunshots in the area early Monday.

 

Update 8:05 a.m. EDT June 25: According to KCBS-TV producer Mike Rogers, an “active shooter and 3rd alarm fire” were reported early Monday in Long Beach. 

KTLA’s Alberto Mendez reported that the incident occurred “at a retirement home near the area of 4th and Atlantic.”

“Suspect is still possibly in the building,” he added.

One woman told KTLA that she heard gunshots.

Read more here.

 

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Please return for updates.

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Puerto Rico evacuees reunited with their dogs in Orlando

Published: Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 9:10 AM

Pets Finally Reunited With Families After Hurricane Maria

After Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, many on the island moved to the mainland United States while their community recovered, leaving most of their possessions behind. 

Some evacuees even had to leave their dogs behind on the island—but one local animal rescue wanted to change that. 

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>>Photos: Puerto Rico evacuees reunited with their pets in Central Florida

The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando flew in a group of dogs from the island to reunite them with their owners Sunday

According to the pet rescue, one man traveled from Texas to be reunited with his dog. 

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Georgia teacher’s request for funeral: Backpacks with school supplies

Published: Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 9:26 AM

FILE PHOTO The family of a teacher who died asked for school supplies and backpacks instead of flowers for her funeral. (Photo: JudyGilmore/Pixabay license: https://pixabay.com/en/service/terms/#usage)
JudyGilmore/Pixabay
FILE PHOTO The family of a teacher who died asked for school supplies and backpacks instead of flowers for her funeral. (Photo: JudyGilmore/Pixabay license: https://pixabay.com/en/service/terms/#usage)(JudyGilmore/Pixabay)

After decades of service to her students, one metro Atlanta teacher had one final lesson to impart.

Tammy Layne Waddell died June 9 at Northside Hospital Forsyth after a prolonged illness. At her funeral June 12, dozens of backpacks filled with school supplies lined the pews.

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The donated supplies were Waddell’s last request to honor her lifelong passion for helping children in need, according to her family.

“My cousin, a teacher, wanted backpacks with supplies brought to her funeral instead of flowers for needy students,” Brad Johnson said on Twitter. “Serving others to the end.”

Johnson shared photos of the backpacks and of Waddell’s fellow teachers, who served as honorary pallbearers at the funeral, he said. 

Over her career, Waddell worked as a paraprofessional and a teacher at Sawnee Elementary, Cumming Elementary and Haw Creek Elementary in the Forsyth County school district, according to her family.

Johnson’s initial tweet has since been shared more than 2,500 times, garnering praise for Waddell and her legacy as an educator.

Former students who left condolences on an online guestbookdescribed Waddell as a compassionate and inventive teacher who encouraged students to do their best. 

“The best teacher ever I’ve ever had,” one student wrote.

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Swimmers find rattlesnakes living in pool noodles

Published: Monday, June 25, 2018 @ 7:33 AM

Fire Department Issues Warning After Rattlesnakes Found in Pool Noodles

With temperatures consistently reaching over 100 degrees, snakes in Arizona may try to find respite from the heat in any way possible. A family in Buckeye, Arizona are now warning pool users to check their noodles before jumping into the water.

According to the Buckeye Fire Department, the unidentified family left two noodles against a wall and found rattlesnakes inside them. The fire department posted the warning over the weekend on Facebook, but did not say when the homeowners found the snakes.

But they said that it is not uncommon. They have found other reports of snakes that lay eggs, depositing the eggs in pool noodles that have been left outside.

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A snake expert told KNXV that the snakes are looking for a hiding place because of the high summer temperatures and the best way not to be surprised by a snake in pool toys is to not leave them out.

“Anything that a snake or a rodent can hide under, try to eliminate it,” Greyson Getty, a snake relocater told KNXV. “Try to keep everything neat and tidy.”

He added that snakes are looking for dark areas, so keep pool toys in a container that can close or on a shelf, KNXV reported.

FILE PHOTO (keyseeker/Morguefile license: https://morguefile.com/license)(keyseeker/Morguefile)

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