Another group of Cambodians set off for South Korea on Monday, pushing aside concerns over homesickness and exploitation in return for higher-paid work
Long Samphors signed a three-year contract to work in South Korea. Despite not wanting to leave, he said he was happy for the opportunity to improve his family's welfare.
AGROUP of 145 Cambodian workers boarded a plane on Monday bound for South Korea, attracted by the offer of new jobs, new homes and a huge increase in earned income.
The group has been studying Korean language and culture for two years in preparation for their departure, with most being recruited for jobs in industrial factories, where they are expected to earn between US$800-$1,000 per month.
None of the workers contacted by the Post were clear on the details of the jobs awaiting them.
Seng Kimhorn, 30, has a three-year contract with a Korean textile factory. Her family is concerned about her departure, fearing her safety as a woman. Twenty percent of those who left for Korea on Monday are women.
"I feel worried about leaving my home and my family, but I will endure these difficulties and try to work very hard to save money so that my family can have a better life," Seng Kimhorn told the Post on Monday, hours before she boarded the plane for her first-ever flight.
"I have heard about exploitation and unethical practices, but I am not worried because this arrangement has been organised between the two governments. Both governments are now responsible for us," she said.
"I have spent about $2,000 on completing forms and buying provisions in preparation for this trip. I think the government should be able to find jobs for Cambodian people in their homeland because it is a very big thing to live in another country," added Seng Kimhorn. "I have no choice, I need more money. So I will go."
South Korean embassy spokeswoman Jin Sun-hye told the Post by email Tuesday that all workers travelling to South Korea will have the full protection of the South Korean labour laws, such as the Labour Standard Act, Minimum Wage Act and Industrial Safety and Health Act.
"If they are treated unfairly at work, they will have access to support organisations in Korea," she wrote. "These workers will be fully protected by our slogan ‘same work, same pay'. Employment training will also be conducted for 20 hours once the workers arrive."
Despite these provisions, Long Samphors, 35, who has signed a three-year contract with an industrial company in South Korea, said leaving Cambodia to find work in South Korea was a last resort for him.
"The economic situation in Cambodia is frustrating," he said. "My wife and I work very hard but make little real difference on improving the situation of my family."
I feel worried about leaving my home and my family, but I will endure these difficulties.
Since the beginning of this year, 4,085 Cambodians have left for work in South Korea, where they can expect to earn more than 10 times what they would for an equivalent unskilled job in Cambodia.
Heng Sour, director general of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said it is a credit to the government that so many Cambodians are able to work abroad.
"It can help our country by reducing unemployment, and our nationals working in South Korea will gain valuable experience with sophisticated technology and equipment," he said, adding that they will also receive a higher salary and better standard of living. "We encourage Cambodians to work overseas."
Heng Sour said it was necessary for wages to stay low in Cambodia to attract foreign investors. "I understand [the workers'] feelings that working in another country far from home is not ideal, but at this stage of Cambodia's development it is important to keep wages low," he said.