It has come to public knowledge that the UK government has been buying PPE from China which comes from factories where they have North Korean women working in slavery conditions.
The PPE in question are almost a million protective coveralls which the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) sourced, coming from factories located in Dandong, China.
According to The Guardian’s three month investigation into the subject, the coveralls have been exported to other countries besides the UK as well, such as Italy, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar, the Philippines, and even the US.
The factory, despite being located inside the Chinese border, uses labour imported from North Korea under a fairly typical program offered by the North Korean authorities, where its citizens work abroad wherever cheap labour is needed.
The UN has previously denounced this type of labour export program by the North Korean government, as the workers are not paid and are under duress, with threats being made against their families back home if they cause any problems. In fact, the UN has put sanctions in place against the use of any of these workers, as well as governments like that of the US.
The investigation found that these workers in the Dandong factory have shifts up to 18 hours long, and are not allowed to leave the factory, and have no days off.
Phil Bloomer, director of the Business and Human Rights Resource centre in the UK, commented:
“The government should not be using regulations that allow for emergency procurement to rush through contracts without even trying to find out if there are risks to workers in supply chains producing PPE. This lack of due diligence lays bare the truth that, far from effectively tackling modern slavery, the government’s policies are allowing the egregious exploitation of workers.”