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Australian surfwear brand apologizes for outsourcing operations to North Korea

Rip Curl apologized on Facebook but said it was initially unaware of the North Korea operation.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Feb. 22, 2016 at 2:30 PM
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SYDNEY, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- A hip Australian surfwear brand is under fire for manufacturing clothes in North Korea.

Athletic apparel maker Rip Curl has sold millions of dollars worth of items that were made in North Korea, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The company apologized on Facebook but said it was initially unaware of the North Korea operation.

"We were aware of this issue, related to our Winter 2015 Mountain-wear range, but only became aware of it after the production was complete and had been shipped to our retail customers," read a statement from the company's chief financial officer Tony Roberts.

"This was a case of a supplier diverting part of their production order to an unauthorized subcontractor, with the production done from an unauthorized factory, in an unauthorized country, without our knowledge or consent, in clear breach of our supplier terms and policies."

After the investigation, Australian surfwear brands have been encouraged to publish a list of every factory that is linked to manufacturing, The Guardian reported.

The probe had begun after a report from Fairfax Media included images from a North Korean factory, taken by Australian businessman Nik Halik. The photos show Rip Curl ski jackets being labeled "made in China."

Oxfam Australia's chief executive Helen Szoke said the exposé showed that there are serious issues with Rip Curl's standards.

North Korea has been universally condemned for a long list of human rights abuses, and defectors have testified the country sends tens of thousands of forced laborers overseas to work for next to nothing as nearly all their wages go to the regime.

"Rip Curl has no excuse for being unaware of what is happening. Companies are responsible for human rights abuses within their businesses – not only morally but also within international human rights frameworks," Szoke said.

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