SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has been sending active duty soldiers to Middle East countries by disguising them as civilian laborers, as the reclusive country tries to earn foreign currency, a U.S.-based media outlet said Friday.
Quoting sources in the Middle East, the Radio Free Asia (RFA) added that the North Korean authorities seem to let the soldiers grow out their hair to look more like civilians.
Due to the inflow of soldiers, North Korean civilian workers in the Middle East are having a harder time holding onto their jobs, according to the RFA.
The news media said the cash-strapped North Korea is opting to send more soldiers as it does not need to pay separate wages to its servicemen.
Moreover, it is easier for the North to control the military workforce as they will be more disciplined, the RFA said.
The media outlet then claimed the number of North Korean soldiers arriving in the Middle East have been increasing rapidly in the past two to three years. Most are ostensibly hired by two North Korean construction companies -- Namkang and Cholhyon.
Of them, Cholhyon construction firm has been continuously increasing the number of soldier-workers every year since it first dispatched 70 soldiers to Kuwait in 2010, RFA said.
There is also a rumor that some 30 percent of laborers in Namkang are soldiers.
The RFA then said some 1,500 soldiers that were dispatched to Kuwait and Qatar belong to the engineering unit of the North Korean People's Army's special construction troop.
The North dispatches tens of thousands of workers abroad to countries such as China, Russia and the Middle East countries to raise hard currency for its struggling economy, stymied by international sanctions.
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