We trust the tags on our clothes to truthfully identify where the clothing was made. But they don’t always tell the whole story.
Reuters reports that it is becoming increasingly common for Chinese textile firms to take orders from international fashion brands and then send fabrics and other raw materials to North Korean factories just across the border, where worker wages are much lower, to be sewn into the finished clothes. The clothes are sent back to Chinese ports and exported globally, bearing “Made in China” tags.
A concern for fashion brands and Western shoppers is that in addition to their reportedly harsh working conditions, North Korea’s state-owned factories help support the North Korean regime. Money from exports can even be funneled (paywall) back into the country’s weapons program.
Brands may or may not know it’s happening. “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,” one Korean-Chinese businessman told Reuters. Like many of the news outlet’s sources, he works in the Chinese border city of Dandong, where much of the trade between the two countries passes through, and where numerous clothing agents serve as middlemen between Chinese manufacturers and international brands. . .