Seventeen people who were arrested last weekend in Phnom Penh during a Korean-language test could face six months in prison after being charged with impersonating prospective migrants hoping to work in South Korea, a police official said Thursday.
The students were arrested Saturday and Sunday while sitting the annual Test of Proficiency of Korean (Topik), which was held at seven high schools across the city.
Sok Khemrin, director of the Interior Ministry’s penal department, said all 17 have now been charged.
“As far as I know, because thus far I have not received any documents in terms of the decision of the court, they were charged with using an identity different from their official identity,” Mr. Khemrin said.
Court officials could not be reached.
According to Mr. Khemrin, the charges carry a sentence of between one and six months in prison and a fine of between 100,000 riel (about $25) and 1 million riel (about $250).
Heng Sour, spokesman for the Labor Ministry, which organized the test, said Thursday the impersonators were students and instructors from local Korean-language centers and were paid between $1,000 and $1,500 to sit the test.
Mr. Sour said the 17 attempted to disguise themselves to look like hopeful migrants.
“They wore the same clothes [and] had their hair cut in the same styles,” Mr. Sour said. “The Korean monitors suspected them [of cheating] and called them for interrogation. Finally, they confessed that they went to take the tests on others’ behalf.”
Kim Hyewon, second secretary at the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh, said 38,362 Cambodians sat the test last weekend and that South Korea would select 5,700.
Ms. Kim added that cheating is not surprising given the number of students taking the test, which is given once a year in Cambodia, but said it was difficult to get away with it.
“This test is very strictly implemented,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)