Outlaw Ocean Project Sheds Light on North Korean Labor in Chinese Seafood Processing


In a groundbreaking revelation that underscores the complex interplay of global trade, human rights, and international diplomacy, the Outlaw Ocean Project has once again catapulted into the spotlight. This time, the focus is on the contentious use of North Korean labor by Chinese seafood processing companies, a practice that has prompted several American firms to halt their business engagements, thereby igniting an international debate on labor ethics and compliance.

The Outlaw Ocean Project’s Latest Findings

The New Yorker‘s recent exposé, underpinned by the Outlaw Ocean Project’s meticulous investigation, uncovers the unsettling reality of alleged forced labor involving North Korean workers within some Chinese seafood processing plants. This issue is not just about labor rights; it’s intricately tied to the broader geopolitical tensions surrounding North Korea’s defiance through nuclear and ballistic missile tests since 2017, acts that have drawn sharp sanctions from the United Nations and the United States.

The investigation highlights that as many as 100,000 North Korean workers are stationed in China, with a significant number, approximately 80,000, employed in Dandong alone. Dalian Haiqing Aquatic Products Co., Ltd., noted for its expansive and global operations, along with several Dandong enterprises, have been implicated in employing North Korean laborers, a claim that Dalian Haiqing vehemently denies.

American Corporations Respond to Outlaw Ocean’s Allegations

The ripple effect of the Outlaw Ocean Project’s allegations has been profound. Prominent U.S. companies, including Trident, High Liner, and Sysco, have suspended their dealings with Dalian Haiqing, initiating comprehensive investigations to delve deeper into these claims. This collective move underscores a growing concern among global businesses about ensuring ethical labor practices across their supply chains.

Trade records illuminate the depth of the relationship between these American firms and Dalian Haiqing, tracing back transactions involving seafood products over several years. The decision to suspend business is not merely a precautionary measure but a testament to these companies’ commitment to corporate social responsibility and ethical labor standards.

outlaw ocean project Accusing Chinese companies

Trident Leads the Way in Ethical Compliance

Trident, in particular, has been proactive in addressing the allegations head-on. The company halted its trade with Dalian Haiqing in early 2024, embarking on an independent investigation to verify the claims made by the Outlaw Ocean Project. Through a rigorous audit process that included interviews and on-site inspections, Trident endeavored to uncover any potential lapses in its supply chain’s labor practices.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence to corroborate the employment of North Korean workers at Dalian Haiqing, Trident’s meticulous approach reflects a broader industry imperative to maintain transparency and uphold ethical standards. The company’s refusal to resume business without clear vindication signals a commendable stance on corporate social responsibility.

Trident Seafoods

The Road Ahead: Ethical Transparency in the Seafood Industry

The Outlaw Ocean Project’s investigation into Dalian Haiqing and the ensuing fallout is a microcosm of the challenges and responsibilities facing the global seafood industry. It highlights the imperative for companies to not only comply with international labor standards but also to actively contribute to a transparent and ethical supply chain.

As the seafood industry grapples with these complex issues, the role of investigative journalism and projects like Outlaw Ocean becomes increasingly vital. By shedding light on practices that often remain shrouded in secrecy, they catalyze essential conversations and actions toward more sustainable and ethical business practices.

In the wake of these revelations, the industry stands at a crossroads. The path forward demands a collective effort to reinforce ethical labor practices, ensuring that the pursuit of profitability does not come at the expense of human rights and dignity. The Outlaw Ocean Project, through its investigative rigor, continues to play a crucial role in guiding this journey toward a more accountable and transparent seafood industry.

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