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Korean Tensions Have Cambodian Workers in a Dilemma


South Korean soldiers of an artillery unit take part in an artillery drill with 155mm Towed Howitzers as part of the annual joint military exercise "Foal Eagle" by the U.S. and South Korea, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Korea, file photo.

South Korean soldiers of an artillery unit take part in an artillery drill with 155mm Towed Howitzers as part of the annual joint military exercise "Foal Eagle" by the U.S. and South Korea, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Korea, file photo.

WASHINGTON DC - Tensions on the Korean peninsula are forcing Cambodian workers there to decide whether they should continue to work, or return home.

Thousands of Cambodians work in South Korea, where they earn high wages compared to working back home.

But some there say they are not sure whether to be worried by the latest round North Korean threats, including the continued display of missile and weapons technology and nuclear testing and increased war rhetoric on state media.

Pen Se, 29, who has one child at home in Cambodia, said he was in a dilemma.

“I want to go back, but I don’t know how to decide,” he told VOA Khmer. “If I go back, I’ll regret my lost wages.”

Roun Saron, 25, has worked in a South Korean factory for more than a year. His parents have asked him to come back, he said.

“They called me,” he said. “They want me to go back home if the situation worsens.” But he said he has decided to stay as long as the factories are open.

Meanwhile, North Korean workers have withdrawn from a joint factory complex between the two countries. And North Korea has advised foreigners in South Korea to evacuate in case of hostilities.

Mom Dara, 31, who has worked in South Korea for the past year, said he does not want to leave, and has seen no real sign of worry from everyday South Koreans—a scenario he would like to see continue.

War would mean “chaos,” he said, and the closure of many of the companies that employ Cambodian workers. But he said he’s also afraid of the destruction modern weapons would bring in the event of a conflict.

“If a war happens, it’s real suffering,” he said. “We’ve faced war in Cambodia.”

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