Shovels and old planes: As North Korea pursues the bomb, its military wanes

KCNA picture shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiling as he attends a flight training session by female fighter pilots Jo Kum Hyang and Rim SolBy James Pearson and Ju-min Park SEOUL (Reuters) – Like many in North Korea's army of 1.2 million, Eom Yeong-nam spent more time holding the wooden handle of a shovel than a Kalashnikov rifle during his years in the 501 Construction Brigade. "Except for basic military training two to three months a year, we worked on building apartments or concrete structures for nine to ten months," said Eom, who served 10 years in the army before defecting to the South in 2010, a year before Kim Jong Un assumed power in isolated North Korea. The young leader has since expanded the use of so-called "soldier-builders", fuelling a construction boom as many of North Korea's Soviet-era conventional weapons become outmoded.

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