Just over a dozen South Koreans —claiming to represent thousands of their compatriots living in Cambodia—gathered in a disused room on the second floor of the Phnom Penh Tower Friday afternoon to protest against North Korea’s nuclear testing program.
Holding up a banner reading “STOP NORTH KOREA’S NUKE TESTS!” representatives of a handful of South Korea veterans and business associations posed for photographs before reading out a statement in unison to about a dozen members of the media who had assembled to watch.
“Korean compatriots in Cambodia along with the Cambodians and foreigners living in Phnom Penh, who love peace, urge the international community and the U.N. Security Council for the strong additional sanctions to be taken against aggressive North Korea,” read an English translation of the statement.
On Tuesday, North Korea announced that it had detonated its first hydrogen bomb, causing a seismic event along the country’s northeast coast. An announcer on North Korean state television said the test had been personally ordered by the country’s premier, Kim Jong Un.
The presenter said that North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons in the face of the threat posed by the U.S. would be “as foolish as for a hunter to lay down his rifle while a ferocious wolf is charging at him,” according to international media reports.
Following yesterday’s tiny protest in Phnom Penh, Yang Sung-mo, chairman of the Korean Association of Cambodia, held a press conference in a cafe on the ground floor of the office tower.
“It is not political,” he said of the protest. “We have to stop nuclear attacks in the Korean peninsula for our children, for our countries.”
An Kil Hyuh, his translator and a member of the association, said that the site and scale of the protest were meant to prevent any possible offense to local authorities.
“We are afraid the Cambodian government will think today’s gathering is politically motivated, so we try to make today’s event smaller and smaller,” he said.
“But many overseas organizations also follow our protest—it’s not a protest, it’s a declaration,” he added.
“Cambodia is close to North Korea and South Korea. I hope [Foreign Affairs Minister] Hor Namhong or senior officials will attempt to help find a peaceful solution—I hope.”
Within hours of the protest, the Foreign Affairs Ministry put out a statement condemning latest nuclear test by North Korea, which is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
“This escalation of action of DPRK poses serious threat to peace, security and stability in the region,” the statement said, calling on North Korea to comply with its international commitments to denuclearization.