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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ran Kong, November 25, 2000. Interview K-0269. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Cambodian immigrants would return home if they could

North Carolina offers Cambodian immigrants employment, Kong explains, but most immigrants come to the United States because of push factors, like violence, rather than America's allure. If they could, they would go home at once, she thinks.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ran Kong, November 25, 2000. Interview K-0269. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BARBARA LAU:
But they could go anywhere. Why do you think they come here? What's good here for them?
RAN KONG:
Well, I think jobs. Also there's already some established Cambodian communities in North Carolina, like in Charlotte and Greensboro, Lexington. There's already some established communities here. So when you're moving, you try to find common people. So it's not too big here, but yet there's still some people here who are like me, who I can relate to. And I think some people too have a lot of relatives who live here.
BARBARA LAU:
You said before that you thought also that the cities were smaller here. Do you think that there's any attachment sort of to the landscape that people might like. Can you talk a little bit about that? What are qualities of North Carolina that Cambodian people might like?
RAN KONG:
The fact that you don't have to live in an apartment. Back in Cambodia, out of all the families that are here, I don't think you'd be able to find one that was— I lived in an apartment in Cambodia. You're very attached. Like you say, you're very attached to the land. Growing up, that was what the majority of these people did unless they lived in the city. My parents, my mom worked with the land. She grew rice and grew vegetables, and same for my father and for a lot of the Cambodians here. So when they come here, the good thing about North Carolina is that you can buy a house, you have land so that you can grow vegetables. And unlike the bigger cities that has like a Cambodian store on every single neighborhood or whatever, here you don't. Just now in the last like three years, there's been a Cambodian store. So in a way, if you want Cambodian vegetables to cook Cambodian dishes, you have to grow your own vegetables. So I think that's a big attraction for the people who come to North Carolina is that there's a little bit more space now, it's not so cramped, whereas in the big cities you're just like stuffed.
BARBARA LAU:
Let's see. Do you think people who do move here come to think of themselves as North Carolinians, or do they still just think of themselves as refugees in a new country? Do you know what I mean?
RAN KONG:
Yes. I think for my— I don't know. I really don't know how the other people would think about it. But just from my dad's point of view, first and foremost, this is America, this isn't Cambodia. So I guess in that respect, first and foremost, he's an immigrant, a refugee. He's borrowing somebody else's home to live in.
BARBARA LAU:
Do you think if people, if they had the opportunity, would go home to Cambodia?
RAN KONG:
Oh, definitely. I think for the older people, if they had the assurance that there would never, ever be an incident like the Khmer Rouge again, and if they could trust the government, then I think that they would definitely take all their money out of the accounts and go back and live in Cambodia. But they're like, heck, Cambodia— you just get to do a lot more, especially now that they have money, they can even do a lot more. Life would be a whole lot, you know, better.