Khmer in Korea, South

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Ari V - Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  People Group location: Statistics Korea. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Khmer
Country: Korea, South
10/40 Window: No
Population: 47,000
World Population: 16,283,100
Primary Language: Khmer
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 4.00 %
Evangelicals: 2.00 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Mon-Khmer
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Central Khmer speak an Eastern Mon-Khmer language called Khmer, or Cambodian. It is the national language of Cambodia.

The Khmer Empire, which flourished between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, encompassed present-day Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and southern Vietnam. Its power declined after being conquered by the Thai and the Vietnamese.

In 1969, Cambodia suffered bombings by the U.S. and invasions by the Vietnamese, events that threw the country into turmoil. In addition, a civil war broke out between the Cambodian government and Communist rebels known as the Khmer Rouge. Possibly three million Central Khmer died between 1975 and 1979, while the Khmer Rouge ruled.

Where Are they Located?

Khmer people of South Korea are settled mostly in the North West. Most Khmer people live in their home country, though there is a sizable diaspora in South Korea.

What Are Their Lives Like?

South Korea is a popular place for refugees to find work. They arrive seeking hope for their future.

Korea switched fro a military dictatorship to a democracy resulting in an economic upturn, requiring more workers, especially in industry. There are, however, growing pains as abuses of workers' rights from employers, and discrimination from South Koreans occur. Many foreigners today remain illegally because of South Korean archaic employment laws. Also, some unknowingly enter with fraudulent visas provided by dishonest brokers.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The former Khmer Empire was influenced by India, from which it adopted Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, the majority of the Central Khmer are Buddhist, although relics of ethnic religions such as ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors) and spirit worship are very important to them.

The Buddhist Khmer also seek the middle path to nirvana, or ultimate peace through gaining merit in this life. Merit may be gained through supporting the construction of Buddhist temples, giving food to monks, and studying in the monastery.

What Are Their Needs?

The most pressing need of Khmer people in South Korea is to understand the truth of the loving God who has made provision for them to become His children and has paid the of full payment of the penalty of their sins. Who will pay the price to tell them?

Prayer Points

Pray for families of Khmer believers loving and serving others to grow reproducing churches throughout South Korea.
Pray for a chain reaction of families reaching families resulting in thousands of new believers who share their faith with others.
Pray that churches and believers will bless their entire people group in such a way that God's love will change the Khmer people like yeast changes dough.

Text Source:   Keith Carey