World News

Cambodia bans citizens from marrying South Koreans

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia has temporarily banned marriages between local women and South Korean men over concerns about human trafficking, officials said on Saturday.

The ban was enforced after Cambodian police arrested a woman who had lured 25 girls from rural areas, each of whom paid money to marry South Korean men, government spokesman Koy Kuong said.

“This act was trafficking of women and children,” he said, adding that the Cambodian court recently sentenced the woman to 10 years in prison.

Koy Kuong said the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh had been notified on March 5 about the temporary ban. It was not known when the restriction would be lifted.

Cambodia is a hugely popular destination for South Korean tourists and investors. South Korea is Cambodia’s second-biggest source of foreign direct investment after China.

An influx of investment from the country after 2004, mainly in garments, IT, and tourism, helped spur four years of double-digit growth in Cambodia. It has since fallen by about 50 percent as a result of the global financial crisis.

Bith Kimhong, head of the police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Department, told Reuters that the convicted woman had charged $100 from every girl selected by South Korean men for marriage.

He said agents were banned from facilitating marriages, adding that the law required foreigners to first talk to the parents of their future spouses.

“Taking commission for marriage is illegal,” he said. “If you want to have a Cambodian woman to be your wife, you have to ask for her hand traditionally and be registered at the village and community level.”

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Martin Petty and Ron Popeski