Brian Campbell, Director of Policy and Legal Programs, International Labor Rights Forum:
Last year, the Government of Uzbekistan forced children and adults to grow and harvest cotton on a mass scale. As a result, ALL cotton in Uzbekistan is produced with forced labor. Before investing deeper into the cotton sector in Uzbekistan, the Korean Government, Daewoo International, and all other companies should seriously consider the legal ramifications of their decision.
U.S. law prohibits any person from "knowingly benefiting" from forced labor, and anyone found to be profiting from forced labor, including Daewoo's corporate executives, faces up to 20 years in prison in the United States if they are found and charged in U.S. jurisdiction. Considering the global scale of Daewoo International's global business operations, including significant investments in the United States, Daewoo may want to reconsider exposing themselves to even more liability.
The International Labor Rights Forum and other members of the Cotton Campaign filed a complaint to the U.S. Government against Daewoo International and another cotton processor in Uzbekistan, Indorama Corporation, for violating criminal laws prohibiting a company from trading a good made "in whole or in part" with forced labor. We were pleased to learn from Department of Homeland Security that they have opened an investigation into Daewoo, Indorama and other companies' violations of U.S. forced labor laws as a result of their role processing Uzbekistan's illicit cotton. As a result, Indorama has already had a shipment of yarn intended for sale in the U.S. detained and eventually re-exported. Other companies' should take heed from Indorama's experience, and support the call from Uzbek human rights activists, to insist that the Government of Uzbekistan end its forced labor system for cotton production, and, in the meantime, find alternative sources for their cotton.