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(Yonhap Feature) KOICA program promotes better understanding of Korea in Cambodia

2017/12/19 09:00

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By Koh Byung-joon

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- The national flags of South Korea and Cambodia hung in front of a three-story building in the middle of the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Inside, a group of students were busy learning the Korean language, which helps them better understand the country of K-pop and land a decent job.

"I started to study here to have better communication with people in the hospital where I am working," Phalluy Sokleng, 22, told a group of reporters visiting Cambodia as part of a media exchange program.

"At first, it was hard to learn but through this program, my listening and speaking capability have improved a lot. I will continue to study this language to realize my dream to become an interpreter."


The Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center in the Royal University of Phnom Penh (Yonhap) The Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center in the Royal University of Phnom Penh (Yonhap)

Sokleng is one of the students attending the Korean language and culture program at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center (CKCC). The center was established in 2013 jointly by Cambodia's top university and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the state-run overseas aid organization.

Built on a total floor area of 3,600 square meters, the CKCC has a variety of facilities designed to help it promote a better understanding of Korea among local people.

The center has lecture rooms, a multipurpose hall, computer labs and a library with more than 3,000 publications in Korean donated by KOICA. The most popular area is the "Korean Corner" which provides movies, music and other cultural items from Korea.

When the reporters visited the building, Cambodian students were studying with Korean books, reading Korean newspapers and having Korean instant noodles and other food. Outside, a group of students in white uniforms were practicing Taekwondo, Korea's traditional martial art.

Cambodian students practice Taekwondo at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center. (Yonhap) Cambodian students practice Taekwondo at the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center. (Yonhap)

The main focus of the instruction is language, as it is a starting point to understanding Korea and helps young Cambodians get a job they want.

"Actually, most of the students come here to study the language because they want to work in a Korean company," Khoun Thavouth, the CKCC director, said.

"I think some of them come here to enjoy Korean culture. That's why they study but mostly because they want to get a job," he said. He noted that there has been an increase in demand for jobs such as tour guides for Korean travelers.

Youn Oun, a 27-year-old student, has studied the Korean language there for two years. She thinks this has helped her better understand Korean culture and broadened her opportunities for a career.

"I will continue to study it until I become a translator," she said.

The center is part of South Korea's official development assistance to the country, with which it normalized diplomatic ties in 1996.

Led by KOICA, South Korea provided US$600 million from 1991 to 2014 in official development assistance to Cambodia, making it the third largest country in terms of overseas development aid given, after Vietnam and Ethiopia. KOICA opened its local office in 2003 and it has sent $22 million to the country this year.