Workers Who Left Korea to Escape End of World Begin to Return

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Khem Veasna with LDP supporters at his Phnom Kulen plantation in Siem Reap, in a photograph posted to Veasna’s Facebook page on September 7, 2022.
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Cambodian workers who left their jobs in South Korea in fear of politician Khem Veasna’s prophecy that the world would end in flooding have started to return, hoping to get their old jobs back, a Cambodian association there says.

Thousands of people from across Cambodia — and some from overseas — gathered last week at Veasna’s Siem Reap farm to escape the predicted massive flood that would destroy the whole world except his farm in the Phnom Kulen mountain area. The gathering has now partially dispersed, though around 1,000 hard-core supporters of Veasna’s League for Democracy Party remain at the farm, according to authorities.

Meng Chea, director of the Khmer Solidary Association in Korea, said around 400-500 workers had left in a hurry at the end of August, and some were now trying to get their jobs back in South Korea.

“Now there are some people coming back,” said Chea, explaining that most workers had resigned but some others had merely asked for leave for a month to go see the situation of the end of the world.

“Most of the workers did not ask permission, and lied that their mothers or fathers were sick and they needed to resign. They left in a hurry,” Chea said.

The departures, sometimes in groups of 4-5 people, left factories in a difficult position and put additional burdens on the Cambodian workers who remained. They caused problems for other Cambodian migrants and the effects could continue into the future, he said.

“When the employers have a problem with Cambodian workers, they don’t want to employ Khmer workers anymore,” Chea said.

But those returning now, after only a week or so, seemed to be able to get back to work, he said, adding that those who stayed away longer would likely have problems.

Chea Sopheak, a Cambodian worker at an electronics factory in Busan, South Korea, said seven of his co-workers had left their work to go to Veasna’s farm.

“They told me their uncle had attained enlightenment and saw that a flood was hitting the world so we have to leave in a hurry,” Sopheak said. LDP activists had fronted the costs of some airplane tickets, which the workers could repay later, according to Sopheak.

But the factory was not happy, he said. “The employers at my workplace and others complained to the Korean Ministry of Labor to stop letting some Cambodian workers work here because some factories could go bankrupt when nearly 10 people in the same workplace all leave.”

According to Sopheak, one of his seven LDP co-workers now desperately wanted to go back to Korea as he had debts to repay, while some of the others were stuck at the Phnom Kulen farm as they had argued with their families, who were refusing to let them in their houses and therefore the co-workers had no place to go.

Meanwhile in Phnom Kulen, the LDP has asked authorities for help to get non-party members to leave the gathering.

A letter dated Tuesday and signed by a party official says the LDP agreed to end the gathering for non-members by 5:30 p.m. Monday, but some still refused to go. The letter asks the Siem Reap governor to intervene or take legal action to get those people to leave the farm.

Siem Reap provincial deputy governor Ly Samreth said on Wednesday that officials were continuing to gather information about people remaining on the farm, and were allowing them to leave voluntarily.

“We will do this until they are all gone, but we hope that it won’t be long because there aren’t enough supplies to continue support them all in there, and that’s why they agreed to end it, and they will hand over people who refuse to leave to the authorities to take action,” Samreth said.

Additional reporting by Nat Sopheap

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