Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea, Long Dimanche, has claimed that there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Cambodian laborers working illegally in South Korea.
Altogether there are more than 53,000 Cambodians working in the country, he said.
Dimanche said the workers there without a visa had refused to return home.
“We always informed them and disseminated information to them that all of you, who are workers with finished work contracts, must return home in order to re-apply to take an exam and go back [to South Korea],” he said.
“But if they don’t return home, they will become illegal workers. They will face risks, confronting with some employers who have ill mind and exploit their blood and sweat. This is an issue,” he added.
He said unless the workers returned to Cambodia they would lack insurance and miss out on other benefits.
Labor rights groups said workers are often reluctant to return home as they fear losing the higher wages that working abroad brings in.
Dy Thehoya of the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights said there was a “careless attitude” from government officials when it came to ensuring workers did not stay on illegally.
“From our experience working directly with migrant workers, we haven’t seen any serious attention on keeping track of or rescuing people working in receiving countries,” he said.
He added that the government should make workers aware that if they work illegally in South Korea they could face expensive legal action.
Chum Sounry, foreign affairs spokesman, could not be reached.