Go to contents

Korean Hearts in Cambodian Slum Area

Posted July. 25, 2005 03:04,   


Sungbokchap, east of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, never sleeps as the center of embassies and hotels.

The district, whose name refers to a nest of sparrows, also has a dark shadow. It is home to the nation’s largest AIDS population, a magnet to drug dealers, and a safe heaven for criminals. It is the nation’s biggest slum area where teenage girls sell sex for $5 and families keep corpses in their houses because they can’t afford funerals.

Yein, an 11-year-old girl who moved into the area three years ago, has never been to school. Her father asked “Who would earn money to put bread on table for our family, if she goes to school?”

Dragging a cart which is five times bigger than her tiny body, she wanders around in a theme park near her village until 10:00 p.m. every day to sell millet stalks.

She makes 2,000 riels or 500KRW a day. She buys rice and meat on her way home to feed her family for the next day.

This dirty and dangerous area, which is unpopular even among missionaries, now has welcome guests. Thirteen college students belonging to the global volunteers group of the Korea Freedom League have visited the area to provide medical services and teach Korean.

Hearing that the students decided to work in the area as volunteers, their friends and families who know the area well tried to dissuade them from doing so. On July 15, three days into the volunteer work, all the students had become friends with kids in the neighborhood. They are seen walking around holding hands with kids.

“To be honest with you, before I saw children, I didn’t feel comfortable working here because of AIDS. But after I saw them putting their hands together, smiling and saying hello, I was not scared any more,” said Lee, Sun-a, 21, a third-year student at Incheon Catholic University.

“It is really heart-breaking to see children burst into tears because of hunger in the middle of a class or children with so many cuts and bruises on their bodies,” said Sohn Soo-yeon, a fourth-year student at Sungshin Women’s University.

They had great time, doing some face painting on kids’ hands and faces and making animal-shaped balloons.

They also helped doctors, including Lee Jun-moo, a professor of Chinese medicine from Sangji University, see patients. Doctors are also volunteers.

Trangam (58, female) visited the medical center in the early morning. Her neck had been swollen for the past 20 years. She said, “I have never been to a hospital in my life. I am here today because of a cold.”

Yoon Mi-ok (28, female), who leads the volunteers and takes charge of education at the Korea Freedom League, said, “This experience will give students an opportunity to appreciate what they have now and understand the sufferings of underprivileged people.”