Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng on September 18 joined the Cambodian embassy in South Korea and more than 10,000 Cambodian students and workers, as well as the Ansan municipal authorities, to celebrate Pchum Ben and the Kan Ben days following a long Covid-19 hiatus.

Samheng presided over the celebrations and expressed his appreciation of the expatriate Cambodians for their excellent adherence to cultural traditions and respectful natures.

Cambodian Buddhists are observing Pchum Ben for 15 days, which falls between September 11 and 25 this year, the first 14 of which are enumerated as the 1st-through-14th Kan Ben Days, where families typically gather at pagodas, bringing food and other offerings for monks.

The main festivities will take place over the three days from September 24-26, starting on the 14th Kan Ben Day and including an additional day after the primary day of “great offering”, or Ben Thom, on September 25 which coincides with the new moon. The full 16-day holiday is dedicated in memory of ancestors and is an occasion for families to get together.

Samheng also spoke highly of the labour market in South Korea, saying working conditions are good and wages are high.

“Workers who have the opportunity to come here to work should remember that this is due to the efforts … in building diplomatic relations with South Korea since 1997,” he added.

He noted that Cambodian workers in South Korea had been recognised as having an excellent work ethic and positive attitudes, despite recent events which saw a number of workers – known for their political affiliation to the League for Democracy Party (LDP) – leaving their jobs abruptly and returning to Cambodia to escape purported “global tsunamis” predicted by LDP leader Khem Veasna.

At the time, Veasna’s appeal attracted not only his supporters in the Kingdom and LDP-affiliated workers in South Korea, but also those in Japan and Thailand.

“We are saddened that a small number of workers in Korea believed in the superstitious propaganda of a politician and gave up their jobs and returned home. This affected the reputation of Cambodian workers who are almost always respected by Korean employers.

“Those who left also lost good sources of income that could have supported their families,” he said without naming the LDP leader, who pronounced himself “Universe Protecting Brahma” when appealing to his supporters to gather at his plantation in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district to survive the purported apocalypse.

The minister said that everyone has the right to believe in anything they want to, but before committing to an extreme belief, they should consider what it might cost them. He called on all Cambodian workers to trust the government which is continuing to ensure the rapid development of Cambodia.

Cambodian ambassador to South Korea Chring Botum Rangsay was pleased that the festivities were happening, after a delay of two years.

She said the event aims to follow Khmer traditions and showcase the Khmer cultural identity to the South Koreans and other foreigners there, as well as build a happy atmosphere for Cambodian workers.

She pledged to continue to pay close attention to supporting any Cambodian citizens who needed help in South Korea, adding that she is always ready to work with the local authorities to resolve any issue and promote the rights and freedoms – as well as the working conditions – of the Cambodian community in South Korea.

“It is noteworthy that during the pandemic, Cambodia was one of just 16 countries whose workers were not blocked from working here,” she noted.

According to the most recent labour ministry report, South Korea has about 50,000 Cambodian workers. Thailand has the highest number, with more than 1.2 million. It total, the Kingdom has more than 1.3 million citizens working abroad, who send remittances worth around $3 billion a year back to their families.