Major Australian surfwear company Rip Curl apologized on Sunday after Fairfax Media published images, which were taken in a factory near Pyongyang last year, showing the brand’s ski jackets with the ‘made in China’ label.
A company statement said it was aware a few months earlier that its winter garments were found in North Korean factories. By then, 4000 units were already shipped to customers. The company blamed a supplier for illegally diverting part of its production to North Korea without Rip Curl’s knowledge or consent.
Workers in North Korea are routinely exploited. Based on statements from defectors, North Korean laborers are forced to work in ‘slave-like’ conditions for long hours with minimal or no pay. Those who defy orders were reportedly sent to work camps to reform their attitude and behavior.
Oxfam Australia in a statement said Rip Curl had ‘no excuse’ for being unaware of its own supply chain operation because “companies are responsible for human rights abuses within their businesses.” In light of this event, Oxfam has urged Rip Curl and other Australian brands including Quicksilver and Billabong to publish details of the factories used in its procurement process.