Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Comic book dust-off at the PPSEZ

Comic book dust-off at the PPSEZ

A man unpacks comics at the Haru Phnom Penh Comic Center’s warehouse in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone
A man unpacks comics at the Haru Phnom Penh Comic Center’s warehouse in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone last month. Hong Menea

Comic book dust-off at the PPSEZ

On a production line at a small factory inside the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, Cambodian workers delicately restore and repackage second-hand comic books from Japan.

When finished, the thick paperbacks look brand-new again, ready for shipment back the other way, to stores in Tokyo and cities across the country.

“Manga is the style,” says Sho Hara, referring to the wide assortment of Japanese comic books sitting stack after stack and awaiting export inside the Haru Phnom Penh Comic Center (HPC) factory.

The manga market, according to Hara, head of communications for the parent company in Japan that owns the factory, is “enormous”. Haru Phnom Penh Comic refurbishes the books in Cambodia and sells them back to the same shops from which they came.

HPC is one of the more unique stories emerging from Cambodia’s manufacturing industry and the economic zone on the outskirts of the city. As the industrial area expands, more room is available for manufacturing that strays from the traditional path of garments and footwear, which account for 80 per cent of Cambodia’s exports.

A short drive from Haru Phnom Penh Comic Center, one company is making high-grade steel casings to hold machine parts. Not far away, a bioenergy firm will fashion coal briquettes for export. Tiffany’s is setting up a diamond polishing factory in the zone, and in the most niche of all operations, a wig company is planning on using hair from India to create custom-made doos for Japan’s ageing population.

“We don’t just target the big company. We also try to target the small to medium-sized company,” said Hiroshi Uematsu, CEO of the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone.

It doesn’t get much smaller than the manga operation at HPC. As little as a dozen or so workers converse as damaged and worn books are attended to, the workers attempting to restore the them to their once pristine condition.

Haru’s customers include some 1,200 internet cafes, more than 1,200 comic book rental shops and over 2,500 hair salons, all of which buy and sell from HPC.

At least one, sometimes two container loads of 100,000 books arrive at Haru each month. Plastic seals and security tags are removed, and the shop stamp is finely machine – shaved from the fore edge of the book.

Books are delicately cleaned using cleaning spirits whilst an industrial vacuum makes a slight hissing sound as it forces any dust and dirt out of the old pages to restore the book.

Afterwards, a bar code scanner provides a Khmer reference number advising where the book belongs in the warehouse. As the comics are typically part of a series, the process ends when a set is complete and shipped back to Japan at a cost of 5 cents a book. Flicking through one of the 400,000 comics stacked in six-foot high shelves on the warehouse floor, Hara is aware of the detail-driven method that the factory demands.

“It is tedious work, and you need to be good at it,” he said.



  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australians protest Asean summit visit by PM Hun Sen

    Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Friday to protest against Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, who claimed to have been gifted millions of dollars by the Australian government ahead of a special Asean summit this weekend. An estimated 300 protesters, the majority of

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Phnom Penh smothered in smelly, dangerous haze as landfill fire continues burning

    A putrid haze that has bedeviled Phnom Penh since Monday night will likely continue as a landfill in Dangkao district continued to burn on Friday, creating health risks for the capital's residents. Workers at the Dangkao landfill on site on Friday attributed the fire, which