Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that South Korea increase the quota for Cambodian workers in the country, where around 45,000 are currently employed.

Hun Sen made the call on March 23 during the inauguration of National Road 21, which stretches nearly 64km from the Takhmao roundabout in Kandal province to the Cambodia- Vietnam international border.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea in the first two months of 2022 totaled more than $195 million, increasing by over 22 per cent year-on-year, as imports from Korea increased to almost 40 per cent, according to data from the Korea International Trade Association (Kita).

“This increase can be attributed to the implementation of our side of the Cambodia-Korea Free Trade Agreement,” Hun Sen said.

“I have told both the Speaker of the Korean National Assembly and the Korean President to complete their internal procedures as soon as possible so that we can begin promoting trade as the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Agreement comes into force. This is one more example of the benefits of international cooperation.

“I also proposed an increase in the quota of Cambodian workers working in Korea. They not only earn good salaries, but acquire modern techniques that can be used in the further development of our nation,” he added.

Korean ambassador to Cambodia Park Heung-kyeong said friendly relations between Cambodia and South Korea have greatly contributed to the creation of jobs and an influx of international currency into the Kingdom – through the export of labour under the employment permit system.

“Currently, there are about 45,000 Cambodian workers in Korea. They are widely regarded as honest and hard-working by their employers,” he said.

Park noted that people-to-people exchanges between the two countries were active prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, with up to 300,000 tourists visiting each other’s nations annually.

Kim Won-Seok – spokesman for the Office of the Human Resource Development Unit under the Ministry of Labour, Seoul Region – said Cambodia is one of the top 16 countries in the world when it comes to “patient, hard-working” employees. He considered Cambodia an indispensable partner – now and in the future.

This statement was made during a meeting with officials of the Cambodian embassy in South Korea on March 11. The meeting was held specifically to discuss the exchange of labour.

Kim and his team were happy to cooperate with the embassy to organise short-term training courses for Cambodian workers to gain more knowledge during their service in Korea.

Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng said in February that by the end of 2021, the government had provided employment opportunities abroad to more than 1.3 million Cambodians.

“It is estimated that the remittances that workers send to their families each year total about $2.8 billion, which contributes to the growth of the national economy and improves their families’ living standards,” he said.

He added that Cambodia continues to strengthen cooperation with partner countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore to provide employment opportunities and to protect the rights and interests of workers in those countries. This makes it easier for workers to access social protection – both now and upon their return.

According to the labour ministry’s report, the number of Cambodian workers working abroad includes 1,220,197 in Thailand; 45,866 in South Korea; 23,027 in Malaysia; 11,453 in Japan; 821 in Singapore; 202 in Hong Kong; and 43 in Saudi Arabia.