CAMBODIA has temporarily banned marriages between local women and South Korean men after officials broke up a human trafficking ring designed to facilitate such unions, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday.
Koy Kuong said a woman had been convicted on March 3 of recruiting 25 girls from rural areas and arranging for them to be married off to South Korean men for a US$100 fee.
Accepting a commission to facilitate a marriage is illegal, he said, adding that the convicted marriage broker is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence, and that the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh had been notified on March 5 of the temporary marriage ban.
The ban will eventually be lifted, though not before the government puts in place an effective screening mechanism to prevent cases of trafficking, Koy Kuong said.
John McGeoghan, project coordinator for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said the temporary ban was a positive step.
“It’s good to see the Cambodian government is taking this issue seriously,” he said.
McGeoghan added that it is important to raise awareness among women looking to marry and move to countries such as South Korea about what life there will really be like.
Some Cambodian women use marriage as a way to earn money and send remittances back to their families, he said, but many unexpectedly end up marrying blue-collar or agricultural workers.
In March 2008, Cambodia imposed an eight-month ban on all foreign marriages to combat human trafficking after the release of an IOM report that found that as many as 1,759 marriage visas were issued to Cambodians by South Korea in 2007, up from only 72 in 2004.
Despite the 2008 ban, the number of Cambodian women marrying South Korean men rose from 551 in 2008 to 1,372 last year, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
According to Yonhap, nearly 60 percent of marriages to foreigners in Cambodia involve South Korean nationals, most of which are arranged through brokers.
On Sunday, an editorial in the Korea Herald called the new ban “a rare negative step in the generally amicable relations between the two countries”, and urged Korean police to work with Cambodian authorities to help clear up the matter.
The South Korean embassy could not be reached for comment Sunday.