International World North Korea exports labelled “made in China”, and it's legal

North Korea exports labelled “made in China”, and it’s legal

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Last year, Australian sportswear brand Rip Curl made a public apology in 2016 after it was exposed that some of its ski gear had been made in one of North Korea’s factories — some of the world’s worst places to work, whose profits are generated through exploitative regimes.

The exported clothes had been labelled “made in China” before it reached the retailors worldwide. Each piece was sold at typically US$300+.

Till now, not much has been done with those misleading labels and the unauthorized outsourcing of production.

Facebook post of public apology by Rip Curl

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Chinese textile firms are increasingly making use of North Korean factories for their cheaper labour across the border, traders and businesses in the border city of Dandong, the Chinese border city where the majority of North Korea trade passes through, according to Reuters.

All factories in North Korea are state-owned and workers are being paid between US$75 and $160 per month, compared with US$450-US$750 in China.

Interestingly, the UN sanctions, introduced to punish North Korea for its missile and nuclear practices, do not include any bans on textile exports.

“We take orders from all over the world,” said one Korean-Chinese businessman in Dandong.

“We will ask the Chinese suppliers who work with us if they plan on being open with their client — sometimes the final buyer won’t realize their clothes are being made in North Korea. It’s extremely sensitive,” he said.

Textiles were North Korea’s second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totalling $752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). Total exports from North Korea in 2016 rose 4.6 percent to $2.82 billion.

The latest U.N. sanctions, agreed earlier this month, have completely banned coal exports now.

Just last week, China’s Commerce Ministry issued on Monday an order banning imports of coal, iron ore, lead concentrates and ore, lead and sea food from North Korea, effective from Tuesday, as Beijing moved to implement United Nations sanctions announced earlier this month.

The sanctions also ban countries from increasing current numbers of foreign North Korean workers, many of whom are already employed in Dandong’s factories.

“It’s a hassle to hire North Korean workers though,” a Korean-Chinese businesswoman told Reuters. “You need to have the right set-up. Their living space has to be completely closed off, you have to provide a classroom where they can take classes every day.

“They bring their own doctor, nurse, cook and teachers who teach them North Korean ideology every day.”

The sanctions also ban countries from increasing current numbers of foreign North Korean workers, many of whom are already employed in Dandong’s factories.

“It’s a hassle to hire North Korean workers though,” a Korean-Chinese businesswoman told Reuters. “You need to have the right set-up. Their living space has to be completely closed off, you have to provide a classroom where they can take classes every day.

“They bring their own doctor, nurse, cook and teachers who teach them North Korean ideology every day.”

Meanwhile, Chinese tourists reportedly continue to flood into North Korea, undeterred by escalating tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.

“We’re curious. We want to see how they live,” Xu Juan said to Reuters on Thursday before crossing the Yalu River, which marks the border between the two countries. Xu was travelling with friends and family from Hangzhou, in eastern China.

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