PM to Visit South Korea to Boost Trade and Cooperation

President Yoon Suk Yeol and Prime Minister Hun Manet in in Jakarta, Indonesia, last September on the margins of annual summits involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Photo: Prime Minister Hun Manet Facebook page

PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Manet will pay an official visit to South Korea from May 15 to 19 in a move to boost cooperation, trade and economic ties in various fields between the two countries. It will be the premier’s first visit to Seoul since he took office in August 2023.

The South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh said the Cambodian leader will meet with President Yoon Suk Yeol on May 16 to explore ways to advance cooperation.

“President Yoon Suk Yeol will hold a summit with Prime Minister Hun Manet on May 16 to discuss various measures to promote practical cooperation,” the embassy said.

The Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry said the two leaders will witness the signing of several documents covering areas such as economic development and infrastructure.

“They will discuss deepening partnerships and expanding multifaceted cooperation to elevate bilateral relations to new heights,” said the ministry.

Seun Sam, a policy analyst at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Cambodia must have a strong connection with South Korea, which is one of Asia’s most developed and powerful nations.

“I am very positive about the relationship with South Korea because it has made significant investments [in Cambodia] and is a major trading partner,” he said. “However, Cambodia must strengthen its internal politics to ensure the investment environment for [foreign] investors.”

Trade between the two countries has been made easier with the Cambodia-Korea Free Trade Agreement that was signed on Oct. 21, 2021, and came into force on Dec. 1, 2022.

Bilateral trade between the two nations reached $1.05 billion in 2022, according to South Korea’s news agency Yonhap.

According to the General Department of Customs and Excise, Cambodia's export activity to South Korea surged by over 20 percent in 2023, reaching $281 million, while the country’s imports decreased by 13.8 percent. 

South Korea largely imports textiles and footwear while exporting electronics, automobiles and machinery.

Sam Seun stressed that Cambodia must boost its friendship with South Korea as many Cambodians are working and studying in the country. 

“[Closer ties with South Korea] can balance the political situation of Cambodia with China,” said Sam. “The prime minister’s visit is a serious matter and important.”

In the past, Seoul had announced it would build a friendship bridge across the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers in Phnom Penh, with one section going from the Night Market Park to the Chroy Changvar Peninsula and the other crossing the Mekong River to Arey Ksat commune in Kandal province. The project is worth $245 million.

Cambodia and South Korea first established relations in 1970, five years prior to the establishment of the Khmer Rouge regime. Diplomatic ties were reinstated in 1997.

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