PHNOM PENH – Kong Vorn, a former journalist who survived the Khmer Rouge killing fields and later emigrated to Japan, runs the only school in Cambodia that provides Japanese language classes at the junior high and high school level.
Since 1999, the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Middle and High School that Vorn built in Prey Veng Province, 90 km outside Phnom Penh, has taught a large number of Japanese-speaking Cambodians.
Instruction is undertaken by volunteer teachers of Japanese whom Vorn has invited from Japan.
Vorn’s years of dedication to the teaching of Japanese in Cambodia have made him, at age 77, one of the 57 foreign recipients of Japan’s autumn Imperial decorations this year.
On Nov. 3, the central government announced that Vorn will be honored with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, the fourth-highest ranked government order in Japan.
In making the announcement, the Cabinet Office said Vorn was chosen in recognition of “his significant contributions to the development of Japanese language education in Cambodia and the enhancement of mutual understanding between Japan and Cambodia.”
“I have never had any dream of receiving an award or medal from Japan. I am so excited to hear the award of honor to be conferred by the Japanese government,” Vorn said in an interview.
Vorn worked as a journalist in Cambodia for two Japanese news organizations, Nihon Denpa News from 1970 to 1971 and for Kyodo News from 1971 to 1975.
After the Khmer Rouge overran the country in 1975, Vorn was detained and subsequently subjected to nearly four years of forced labor, during which time he hid his identify to avoid being killed. In 1981, two years after Vietnamese troops ousted the Khmer Rouge, he moved to Japan.
In 1993, while still in Japan, he founded the Cambodia Education Assistance Fund through which he built five schools in Cambodia.
He has received kudos for helping improve the educational system in Cambodia by introducing Japanese teaching methods and Japanese-language education.
Vorn also conducted youth exchange programs between Japan and Cambodia and played a leading role in promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries.
Vorn said he was told by the Japanese Embassy in Cambodia that the Japanese government decoration will be conferred to him next month in Phnom Penh.
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