The results of a Korean proficiency test for would-be migrant workers were released Wednesday, with more than 7,000 Cambodians qualifying as prospective laborers in South Korea’s agriculture, manufacturing and construction sectors, according to officials.
Nearly 40,000 test-takers flocked to high schools across Phnom Penh last month for the Test of Proficiency of Korean, hoping to secure higher paying work in South Korea.
Theang Seangveng, an officer of the Labor Ministry’s manpower training and overseas sending board, said that while more than 7,000 out of 38,362 people passed the test, they would not necessarily be selected for work in South Korea, as they would still be screened for specific jobs.
“It is just a test of Korean language ability. It does not mean they are selected to work in Korea,” he said, adding that South Korean firms would have the final call on employing those who passed the language test.
About 35,000 Cambodians were working in South Korea as of February, according to figures from the South Korean government.
Kim Hyewon, second secretary at the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh, said her country could offer employment to an additional 9,900 Cambodians this year, as the demand for low-wage workers increases.
“Lower wages is certainly attractive to our sectors in employing Cambodian workers,” she said. “Cambodian workers are more willing to take our wage level for certain jobs.”
But low-paying jobs in South Korea still pay much better than similar jobs in Cambodia, creating what Ms. Kim called a “supply and demand match.”
“Many Cambodians think it is a very good opportunity to move on to the next stage in terms of their financial situation,” she said of working in South Korea.
Heng Makthory, 22, from Kandal province, was among those who passed the test. She said higher monthly salaries—between $800 and $1,500 per month—was the main draw.
“I also want to gain experience in agriculture from prosperous countries like Korea,” she said.