Most Americans probably associate slave labor camps with Nazi Germany during World War II where the Nazi’s pressed those POW’s, political prisoners, Jews, and other perceived undesirables that didn’t murder outright into service in factories that supplied the Wehrmacht in its bid to overrun and conquer three continents. That such practices still exist would probably surprise the sheltered and idealistic among the U.S. populace. And you can bet the fact that their shrimp scampi dinner might have been packaged by North Korean indentured labor-supplied factories in China, one of the U.S.’s largest trading partners, would no doubt shock them.
The fact is that slave labor is a policy of state by the North Korean government. Lending out its populace to other governments and foreign companies has two benefits to the unstable regime in Pyongyang. The first is that it brings in precious hard currency to the government, currency that is increasingly been harder to get even given North Korea’s illicit trading in weapons and other activities that are even worse. The second is that it gets rid of mouths to feed that are increasingly burdensome given the hundreds of millions of dollars the North Korean government dumps down the missile-launching rat hole.
The Russian and Chinese governments appear to be willing participants in this scheme. The Russians see it as a golden opportunity to populate difficult projects in the barren stretches of the eastern part of the country. The Chinese support the North Korean government as part of their policy of keeping a non-Western-aligned country between their border and the outside world.
But it isn’t just the Russians and the Chinese, both of whom have been sympathetic (or at least benevolent) to the North Korean regime, that take on North Korean indentured laborers. Construction companies, ship builders, and fisheries across the globe hire them by the thousands.
If every U.S. importer stopped buying products made with North Korean indentured labor, would the practice stop? Unfortunately, no. And that is the ultimate tragedy. No Allied army is coming to relieve the suffering of these workers and put an end to a repressive and murderous government, as happened in 1944. They have become pawns in an international political game, and few would be willing, or able, to pay the price to change the status quo.