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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - South Korea cuts number of migrant workers by a third

South Korea cuts number of migrant workers by a third

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Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co construction workers labour at an apartment complex site in Incheon in September. Many Cambodians that head to South Korea work in the construction sector. Bloomberg

Fall in Cambodian migrants due to unemployment in SKorea

THE number of Cambodian migrants legally working in South Korea plummeted by about one third in 2009, employment data from the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training show.

Around 1,687 workers travelled from the Kingdom to South Korea in 2009, compared with 2,531 in 2008.

An official from the ministry said the decline was due to South Korea reducing its foreign workforce to cope with domestic unemployment prompted by the global economic crisis.

“We saw that last year, Korea reduced its demand for foreign labour in the country,” said Heng Sour, chief of the ministry's Manpower Training and Overseas Sending Board.

Last year, Korea took on 17,500 workers from oversees – around 9 percent of whom were Cambodian. In 2008, it employed 65,000, but only 4 percent were Cambodian.

Most Cambodian labourers in South Korea work in construction, agriculture, factories and light industry.

Heng Sour said that the average employee can earn between US$700 to $800 per month and is able to send between $300 and $500 a month home.

Cambodia started to send workers to South Korea in 2002. Both governments signed a memorandum of understanding to deliver the workers in 2007.

“We don’t like to let either private companies or NGOs get authorisation to send workers to Korea,” said Heng Sour. “It’s an agreement made only on a government-to-government basis.”

The South Korean government has recently been working with 15 states in order to supplement its workforce with residents of countries such as China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, East Timor, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Seoul requires each country to have a private institution, under the control of the ministry of labour, to work closely with South Korea’s human resource development unit.

The decrease in movement of workers between Cambodia and South Korea has been mirrored in a steep decline in the numbers of South Korean tourists visiting Cambodia.

In the first 11 months of 2009, some 179,415 South Korean tourists visited Cambodia, marking a 28.65 percent year-on-year decline in visitor numbers as Vietnam replaced the country as the largest overseas source of visitors to the Kingdom.

In stark contrast to South Korea, the number of Cambodian migrant workers to Malaysia rose threefold last year to 9,682 workers from 3,432 workers in 2008.

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