Marriage to South Koreans Indefinitely Banned

Renewed fear of human trafficking prompts decision

The government has placed an indefinite ban on marriages be­tween Cambodians and South Koreans amid renewed concerns that the unions provide a cover for human trafficking, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday.

“We just temporarily stop ac­cepting the application forms,” Mr Kuong said, declining to say when the government would lift the March 5 ban.

Mr Kuong blamed the ban on the Sept 30 arrest of a Cambodian woman later convicted of trafficking up to 25 women to South Ko­rea. He said the woman re­ceived a 10-year prison sentence for the crime and referred further questions about the case to the Interior Ministry.

The ban marks the second time that concerns about marriages between Cambodian women and South Korean men has prompted the government to impose a halt to such unions.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu So­pheak could not be reached and Sec­retary of State Chou Bun Eng said she heard of the case but had no details.

Ms Bun Eng said the government halted the marriage application process because of more systemic problems rather than any one case in particular, however.

According to Ms Bun Eng, South Koreans who file their initial marriage applications here often leave before it is approved, hand­ing the process to a third party.

“When he [the prospective groom] has to go back [to South Korea] and someone else comes and continues the application it is kind of confusing since we cannot tell which is the true marriage,” she said.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said he was not aware of the temporary ban but said trafficking remained a problem for Cambodia.

“This is a big concern for the authority and the people and, we are making an effort to fight it,” he said.

Whatever the reasons for the hold on South Korean marriage ap­­­­­­plications, the order does have precedent.

The government imposed an eight-month ban on marriages to all foreigners in 2008 following a report by the International Or­ganization for Migration that raised concerns about the large number of Cambodian women being married off to South Ko­rean men through unregulated marriage brokerage agencies.                         Some of those women reported being beaten and forced into labor by their new husbands when they arrived in South Korea.

According to the report, the number of such marriages jump­ed from 72 in 2004 to 1,759 in 2007.

Kim Sang Hoon, deputy chief of the mission for the South Korean Em­bassy in Cambodia, said he could not comment on the issue and instructed a reporter to call the embassy back today.

Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi also declined to comment, explaining that she does not grant interviews on Sundays.

      (Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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