Business

More "Made in China" textiles made in North Korea, and it's legal

DANDONG, CHINA Chinese textile firms are increasingly using North Korean factories to take advantage of cheaper labour, traders and businesses in the border city of Dandong said.

The clothes made in North Korea are labelled "Made in China" and then exported across the world, they said.

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

"We take orders from all over the world," said one Korean-Chinese businessman in Dandong, the Chinese border city where the majority of North Korea trade passes through.

Clothing agents in Dandong act as go-betweens for Chinese clothing suppliers and buyers from the US, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Russia, he said.

"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 realise their clothes are being made in North Korea. It's extremely sensitive."

Textiles were North Korea's second-biggest export after coal and other minerals last year, totalling US$752 million (S$1.02 billion), according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

Total exports from North Korea last year rose 4.6 per cent to US$2.82 billion.

Manufacturers can save up to 75 per cent by making their clothes in North Korea, said a Chinese trader in Pyongyang.

North Korean workers can produce 30 per cent more clothes each day than a Chinese worker.

"North Korean workers can produce 30 per cent more clothes each day than a Chinese worker," he said.

"In North Korea, workers don't go to the toilet whenever they feel like, they think it slows down the assembly line.

"They aren't like Chinese factory workers who work for the money. North Koreans have a different attitude - they believe they are working for their country, for their leader."

North Korean workers at the now-shuttered Kaesong industrial zone just across the border from South Korea received wages ranging from a minimum of around US$75 a month to an average of around $160, compared with average factory wages of $450 to $750 a month in China. - REUTERS

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