Applicants Line Up for 1,000 Factory Jobs in South Korea

Jostling for position among a crowd of other employment hope­fuls, Long Sopea, 24, hoped to be among the 1,000 sent to work in South Korea, where, it is said, they can work shorter hours for wages that are monumental compared with those made in Cambodia.

“I don’t know if they will choose me or not because there are many people applying,” Long Sopea said of International Manpower (Cam­bodia), a hiring agency for South Korean factories.

Manpower officials said Friday there was absolutely no risk to potential employees, as it attempted to allay the fears and doubts of those who remember similar promises made by a phony Greek recruiting company.

More than 1,000 workers paid a hiring company $500 each last year to work construction in Greece, only to find themselves waiting for a day that never came. The scam led to the May arrest of a Greek citizen who allegedly re­ceived $600,000 from Cam­bo­di­ans hoping to work on preparatory projects for the 2004 Olympics.

Manpower Director Vann Charles said Friday that his company would ensure workers’ rights and improve their lives.

“The company will improve people’s living standards by giving many jobs to many people,” Vann Charles said.

Cambodia and South Korea have had normal relations for three years, time enough to persuade the Cambodian government to allow laborers to work in South Korea, Vann Charles said.

Employees must sign a contract limiting their working assignment to three years. After the contract ends, they will be asked to return to the their hometowns, where they may be re­cruited again, Vann Charles said.

Migrant workers are popular in more developed countries be­cause they provide cheap labor and can be expected to put up with poor conditions, said Jason Judd, the country representative for the Ameri­can Center for Inter­na­tional Labor Solidarity. Thou­sands of Cam­bo­dians al­ready work in nearby countries, he said.

“It is the duty of the Cambo­dian and Korean governments to make sure that the workers know their rights under Korean law, and the Cambodian recruiters here and the Korean employers there follow the laws,” Judd said.

Manpower will lend money to workers who are not financially secure enough to purchase travel visas and passports, Vann Charles said. The funds must be repaid after the workers arrive in Korea. The company will not pay for workers who can fend for themselves, he added.

Potential employees must pay 2,000 riel to fill out an application form, which Vann Charles says is a small amount to pay for the economic rewards to come. Appli­cants must be between 20 and 40 years old and have at least completed the ninth grade. Man­power will offer workers housing and three meals a day, he said.

For the first year of their three-year assignment, laborers will be trained by the Industrial Federa­tion Small, Medium Business, an organization formed by various Korean factories. They will re­ceive 85 percent of a $400 to $800 monthly salary.

Factory laborers should work no more than eight hours a day, Vann Charles said. He said em­ployees could earn up to 100 percent of their salary in the last two years of their contract.

The Federation recruits more than 13,000 workers annually, said Seng Sakda, the director of the Employment and Manpower Department in the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Like others outside of Man­power’s offices, Nem Nouch, 22,  was wary. “I came here to apply, but I am worried because when the company chose people to work in Greece, they cheated us. I am applying now because this company doesn’t charge us before,” he said.

Seng Sakda gave assurances  that Man­pow­er will not cheat workers.

“I am 100 percent sure that Korean [factories] don’t cheat their workers,” he said. “They will respect the workers’ rights.”

 

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