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Migrants to Korea jump

120710_07

The snow-covered pavilions at Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul. Photograph: AFP PHOTO / Kim Jae-Myung

More Cambodian migrant workers headed to South Korea in the first half of this year than in all of 2011, data from the Ministry of Labour shows.

A suspension on Vietnamese migration, coupled with an improving Korean economy, primarily accounted for the jump, officials say.

More than 6,300 Cambodians migrated to the East Asian nation between January and June, against 4,957 for all of 2011.

“This year, we notice the agriculture sector has absorbed [Cambodians] very well,” Heng Sour, chief of overseas manpower at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said. “If there wasn’t an increase in the [agriculture] sector, the number of our workers would have been the same as during the last period. The ban on Vietnamese also helped the increase.”

Cambodians were eager to work abroad for potentially higher salaries, Ya Navuth, executive director at Coordination of Action Research on Aids and Mobility (CARAM), said yesterday.

Working conditions in South Korea had gained recognition for being better than some of the destinations Cambodian migrants flocked to, such as Malaysia, he said.

“If there are enough jobs, people will go abroad to work – no question about it. Although there are more domestic jobs, many people don’t know about them. Low salaries here are also pushing them abroad to work," he said. “I never get complaints from Cambodians who go to work in Korea, compared with those who work in Thailand and Malaysia.”

Reports of abuse, death and the use of under-age Cambodians in Malaysia have rocked that country’s reputation as a place for migrants to safely earn higher wages.

Cambodia first sent workers to South Korea in 2002 and signed a memorandum of understanding on migrant exchange in 2007.

Cambodian migrants go to Korea under government-to-government deals. Unlike Malaysia, South Korea does not allow private companies to recruit labour.

There could soon be a slow-down in the number of Cambodia’s heading north, Heng Sour said.

The ban on Vietnamese workers was recently lifted and would cut into the Kingdom’s labour exports, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at kunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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