Surfwear brand Rip Curl is accused of using factories in North Korea, where the conditions are reminiscent of slave labour, to create the company's 2015 winter apparel line.

Workers at the Taedonggang Clothing Factory near Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, were photographed in July 2015 making the Australian company's garments, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The heavy jackets and pants were then sent to retail stores around the world, reportedly bearing "Made In China" tags.

School children through to university students are often forced to work in North Korean factories for more than 20 hours a day and are paid very little, if at all, according to the Humans Rights Watch.


"The harsh reality faced by North Korean workers and students is unpaid forced labour and exploitation," deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said. "Those who refuse face being sent to forced labor camps where they must do hard labor, face physical abuse from guards, and are treated as less than human."

Rip Curl officials said they were aware that the mountain-wear range was made in a North Korean factory but pointed the finger at one of its subcontractors.

"This was a case of a supplier diverting part of their production order to an unauthorised subcontractor, with the production done from an unauthorised factory, in an unauthorised country, without our knowledge or consent, in clear breach of our supplier terms and policies," Chief Financial officer Tony Roberts told SMH.

"We do not approve or authorise any production of Rip Curl products out of North Korea," Mr Roberts said, claiming that they didn't know about the 'issue' until after production was finished.

Some of Rip Curl's critics are not buying it.

Oxfam Australia's chief executive officer Dr Helen Szoke said being unaware of the situation is not a valid excise.

"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," Dr Szoke said.

- Daily Mail