Public New Year Celebrations Held in South Korea for First Time

Public festivities celebrating Khmer New Year were held for the first time in South Korea on Sunday, drawing a crowd of about 20,000, according to the Facebook pages of Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng and the Cambodian Embassy in Seoul.

The “Moha Sankranta Khmer” was held in a park in Suwon city—about 30 km south of Seoul in the northwestern province Gyeonggi-do—on the last day of the holiday.

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Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng, center in brown, and Cambodia’s Ambassador to South Korea Long Dimanche, to his right, raise their fists during a Khmer New Year event in South Korea on Sunday, in a photograph posted to Mr. Sam Heng’s Facebook page.

“This is the first big event that has never happened before,” Long Dimanche, Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea, said in a video announcing the party. “It is an event that we conceived for people who couldn’t go to join the festival with their families in Cambodia.”

About 60,000 Cambodians live in South Korea, he said.

The celebration was organized by the Cambodian Embassy, the Labor Ministry and the Cambodian community living in South Korea, with funding coming from the private sector in both countries, as well as the Cambodian government, he said. No details on the funding were given in the video, which was posted on Thursday on the Facebook page of the Cambodian Embassy in Seoul.

The ambassador, who could not be reached on Monday, also said the event would help promote Cambodian culture, and feature traditional Khmer dance, martial arts such as bokator, games, music and cuisines.

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Spectators gesture during a Khmer New Year event in South Korea on Sunday, in a photograph posted to Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng’s Facebook page.

After wishing festival-goers a happy new year in a message on his Facebook page, Mr. Sam Heng, the labor minister, went on to reassure Cambodians that the government was keeping a close eye on the conflict in the Korean peninsula, which has escalated in recent months as North Korea continues to defy U.N. sanctions by carrying out nuclear weapons tests.

The government “has already prepared the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of people there,” he said in the Facebook post on Sunday. “Therefore, please…stay calm and continue to work as usual.”

Kong Vannoch, founder of an association of Cambodian migrant workers supporting Cambodian workers in South Korea, said on Monday that he participated in the festivities and hoped it would be held again.

“I think we should do this every year, because it is an opportunity to show the solidarity and unity of Cambodian people,” he said.

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