Pyongyang using soldiers as labourers in the Middle East
Kim Jong-un’s regime needs foreign remittances from its workers abroad, but fears they might “disappear” and show up in South Korea. Sources note that hundreds of N Korean soldiers are working on constructions sites in Kuwait and Qatar. They tend to be more loyal and more easily controlled than civilians.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – North Korea is sending active servicemen as construction workers to the Middle East because it does not have to pay them for their work, Radio Free Asia reported.
Soldiers are told to grow their hair so that they appear as civilians and not to talk about it once home.
A source said increasing numbers of soldiers are sent to the region through North Korean construction firms Namkang and Cholhyon.
Namkang has about 800 workers in Kuwait and 750 in Qatar who come from the Army corps of engineers. Of Cholhyon’s 3,200 workers in Kuwait, 30 per cent are soldiers.
The regime is using soldiers because it does not have to pay them and they are easier to control than civilian labourers.
At the same time, more and more North Koreans working abroad are disappearing, and this has set off alarm bells in Pyongyang.
At least 30 North Koreans working in restaurants in China have defected asking for political asylum in third countries.
Pyongyang relies on foreign remittances in foreign currency that are “withheld" from workers’ salary.
Some 590 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea in the first five months of this year, 16 per cent more than in the same period last year, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.
This is the first time since Kim Jong-un took power in the North in late 2011 that there has been a notable increase despite more stringent controls.