South Korea said it will increase its quotas of Cambodian migrant workers for three consecutive years, but reduce the number of workers from Thailand.
Since 2007, the Human Resources Unit of the South Korean Ministry of Employment and Labour has conducted “EPS-TOPIK” tests 16 times in collaboration with the Manpower Training and Overseas Sending Board (MTOSB), a government-to-government system designed specifically to regulate the sending of Cambodian workers to South Korea.
The tests assess the language skills of potential foreign employees to make sure they can perform their duties in South Korea efficiently and can lead their everyday lives without any language problems.
Based on the EPS-TOPIK score, a list is made of eligible foreign job seekers who can then apply for jobs and receive a proper working visa.
Of 434,054 Cambodian nationals who applied for the tests, 89,393 passed and were able to work in South Korea.
The increase of the quotas followed a meeting on Monday about the Employment Permit System (EPS) between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng and South Korea’s Human Resources Unit manager Kim Dong Man.
During the meeting, Kim said that having seen the honest character and diligence of Cambodian workers in South Korea, and the positive cooperation between the nations, his country would continue to increase the quota of Cambodian migrant workers.
“The Human Resources Unit of the Republic of Korea is committed to fostering even stronger cooperation in the migrant worker sector to serve our mutual interests,” he said.
Sam Heng applauded South Korea’s efforts in helping to recruit foreign labour, especially Cambodian workers.
“During the three-year mandate of the Human Resources Unit manager, the collaboration between the unit, the MTOSB and the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training will improve even further,” he said.
Speaking to The Post on Tuesday, ministry spokesman Heng Sour said: “South Korea has received a variety of workers from 16 countries plus Cambodia. But it has
reduced the number of workers from other countries while increasing that of Cambodian workers.
“In the past, most Cambodian workers migrated to the agricultural sector, followed by the industrial sector – while fewer workers have been sent to the service sector,” he said.
Moeun Tola, the executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights, said sending workers to South Korea does not result in as many problems as in other countries, especially Thailand and Malaysia.
However, he expressed a desire to see more jobs created locally and for Cambodia to respond better when the workers return home.
“I am not happy with the number of citizens sent to work abroad. What makes me happy is creating jobs locally because when we are happy to send our people away, we don’t think about a mechanism to receive those people when they return. There could be problems in the future.
“If our state has a long-term vision, we must negotiate with them, the receiving countries, so we can receive our citizens into specific sectors that we hope would exist in Cambodia at least three years after that.
“So when they return, there will be a job market locally. When there are jobs locally, they help the country more than by going to work in other countries,” he said.
However, South Korea also said it would provide manpower to train Cambodian workers and improve their technical skills so that when they return to the Kingdom, they will have learnt useful specific skills.