THE government has accepted all applications from South Koreans seeking to marry Cambodians since a temporary ban on such unions was lifted in April, an official said yesterday.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said a total of 300 applications had been processed in the past three months.
The ban was announced in March after a marriage broker was sentenced to 10 years in prison for recruiting 25 girls from rural areas and arranging for them to be paired with South Korean men.
Officials said at the time that the ban would remain in place until the government had established an effective screening mechanism to prevent cases of trafficking.
When it was lifted in late April, Koy Kuong said the screening mechanism had taken the form of a requirement that foreigners looking to marry Cambodians appear in person to submit applications to his ministry as well as to the Interior Ministry and local authorities.
Koy Kuong said yesterday that the screening mechanism had yet to prove its effectiveness, but that the government would be on the lookout for possible shortcomings.
“It is not 100 percent effective,” he said. “But if we see a shortcoming in the procedure we will evaluate and fix it. We are trying our best. It is also up to the other governments to help combat human trafficking in their countries.”
The Korean embassy said yesterday that it could not comment on the statistics provided by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, noting that all applications were processed by the Cambodian government.
Its main activity, counsellor Huh Jungae said, was to advise Koreans of the process.
An undated post on the embassy’s website states that foreigners wishing to marry Cambodians must submit documents to the Foreign Affairs Ministry proving that they have no criminal records and are single, among other things. The documents must be notarised by the embassy before being passed on to the Interior Ministry, which in turn must notify officials in the Cambodian’s home province.
The statistics from the Foreign Affairs Ministry came the same day that the Korean ministry of gender equality released data showing that foreigners were brides in 1,987 marriages to farmers and fishermen in 2009 – 35 percent of all marriages.
The data showed that 10 percent of those brides were Cambodians, compared to 26 percent from China and 47 percent from Vietnam.
In 2007, the International Organisation for Migration released a study pointing to a spike in the number of marriage visas issued to Cambodians by South Korea. That year, a total of 1,759 marriage visas were issued to Cambodians, up from only 72 in 2004.
Huh Jungae said yesterday that the government operated support hotlines for foreign women married to Korean men in seven different languages, including Khmer. “I hear quite a number of women call in and talk about everything from small domestic issues to bigger legal issues,” she said.