Podcast Aims to Connect with Cambodians Living Abroad

Cambodian immigrant Neak Sopheak moved to the US at the age of 12. Struggling to find his identity, he launched a podcast to connect with other Cambodians living abroad
Raised in Seattle, Washington, after relocating to the US with his family at the age of 12.
Raised in Seattle, Washington, after relocating to the US with his family at the age of 12.

Growing up in Washington as a Cambodian immigrant, Neak Sopheak occasionally struggled with his identity. He would ask himself what is the meaning of Cambodia's identity as it seemed many Cambodians come from diverse backgrounds.

Sopheak, a host of the “JorJek” podcast, is constantly curious and eager to know people’s stories and experiences of moving away from their own country. However, he said it is hard to connect with Cambodian people as the Cambodian community in the US tends to isolate itself.

In addition, they lacked a tendency to interact with other Cambodian communities or individuals, he continued. Out of curiosity, he started the podcast as he thought he and his guests could learn from each other.

Subscribe to Kiripost on Telegram for the latest news and in-depth stories on Cambodia's business!

During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, he started hosting the “JorJek” podcast to bring together Cambodians from all backgrounds to discuss their shared experiences. “There's no one definition of one identity that makes up a Cambodian,” he said.

“The goal is to create a safe space for people of Cambodian identity to express themselves. There are many people who are like me. They were born in Cambodia and immigrated to the US. So, we have one flavor of the identity.”

He invited people within his network to talk with him to demonstrate to the Cambodian community how diverse they are and to further link them by having conversations authentically and unconditionally.

“Sometimes, the Cambodian community in the US or in other countries tends to stay away from each other rather than coming together,” he said. “But then again, that's just my observation.”

In addition to his desire to interact with Cambodians, "JorJek" makes him happy as he can converse with many individuals. He said that before starting, he had experienced a bout of depression.

“When I started to get better from depression, I asked myself, "What did I miss the most?”,” he said. His answer was he missed being Khmer. He started the podcast and found he was happy when he could talk to Cambodian people.

Despite growing up differently, he believes that Cambodians have a common sense of navigating, overcoming, and hardship.

The podcast is not now active as it once was. However, he said that he has conducted several interviews and is considering how to proceed. In addition, he intends to do things a bit differently than before.

“I was looking into perhaps writing about it rather than speaking about it, or finding ways to interview in a setting that doesn't require a video for example,” he said. “I'm still exploring and I’m going to get back to doing it.”

Through “JorJek”, he wants the audience to understand that his identity and the identity of Cambodians in general are made up of multiple traits. He added that he wants to make sure the audience and community are aware of this and urged them to either lean in or simply be allowed to express themselves.

During high school life, when he first moved to live in the US at 12-years-old, he said there were times when he asked himself whether he wanted to be Khmer. He couldn’t find a reason to learn the Cambodian language as he was living in a different country.

Sopheak said that he started blending in the definition of identity and added that juggling these two identities occasionally causes him to lose sight of his origins and what makes him Cambodian.

“If I describe my identity now, I would say Cambodian people have great hospitality,” he said. “There is no time when you go to a Khmer household and they don't offer you food, drinks, and a place to stay. There is a saying that the house to be full is better than the heart to be full.”

He emphasized it is the traits and stories that he wants the audiences to take away when he is interviewing or talking to Khmer people.

Podcast Promotes Self-Awareness and Power of Thought

Subscribe to Kiripost on Telegram for the latest news and in-depth stories on Cambodia's business!