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A diplomat with Seoul

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6-Q-AND-A.jpg

South Korean Ambassador Shin Hyun-suk talks on growing investment and cooperation between the two countries

VANDY RATTANA

South Korean Ambassador Shin Hyun-suk in his office on July 9.

How do you evaluate the changes in Cambodia and in bilateral relations since you arrived?

In the past two-and-a-half years since my arrival in Phnom Penh, I have witnessed a phenomenal change taking place in Cambodia's politics and economy, and in many other areas. I am pleased to note that, in this dynamic and successful process of Cambodia's development, the Republic of Korea has been a close partner.

How many Korean firms have invested in Cambodia?

There is a big difference between Korean and Cambodian statistics in this regard because some Korean investors have failed to register their investments in Cambodia with Korean authorities. If we include these small- and medium-sized companies, the number could be well over 500.

What are the totals?

According to Korean overseas investment statistics, the total amount of Korean investment in Cambodia to March 2008 is US$1.46 billion. In 2006, the amount of Korean investment in Cambodia was just US$174 million. It increased sharply in 2007 to $828 million. In the first quarter of this year, we've reached $238 million. In 2007, Cambodia became the sixth leading destination for Korean overseas investment following China, the US, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Malaysia.

What are the principal sectors in which Koreans are investing?

Initially, Korean investment was focused on the garment sector. In recent years, it has been diversified to banking, agriculture and food processing, tourism, manufacturing, construction and IT. In terms of amounts, construction is the dominant field for Korean investment in Cambodia these days. In manufacturing, Korean companies now produce garments, construction materials, IT products, biofuels and paper products. The financial sector has also became an important focus of Korean investment, helping boost other investments and businesses. Last year, two Korean commercial banks opened, and this year another three will open.

What are the main Cambodian exports to Korea?

Imports into Korea from Cambodia have been increasing sharply in recent years, though the amount is still not large enough. Korea's imports from Cambodia totalled $8.9 million in 2007, an increase of 62.5 percent over 2006.  In the first five months of this year, Korean imports from Cambodia amounted to $5.3 million, 41 percent more than in the same period of last year. Korea's main imports from Cambodia are garments, steel and metal products, and agricultural and forestry products. I anticipate that, once the Korea-Asean Free Trade Agreement is ratified the trade volume between Korea and Cambodia will be boosted immensely.

What products are imported into Cambodia from Korea?

Korea's exports to Cambodia have posted big increases over the past three years, amounting to $144 million in 2005, $206 million in 2006, and $281 million in 2007. In the first five months of this year, Korea's exports to Cambodia amounted to $132 million, an increase of 35 percent over the same period last year. Korea's main exports to Cambodia are textiles, autos, electronics, and chemical products.

How many Cambodians are now working in Korea?

Korea welcomes Cambodian workers because they are sincere, hard-working and good-mannered. Cambodia is now able to send its workers to Korea under a new Employment Permit System (EPS) that began in 2007. 1,142 Cambodian workers have been allowed into Korea under the EPS system, and the number is on the rise. Cambodian workers in Korea are mostly employed in the manufacturing sector.

What's your vision for future relations and cooperation between our two countries?

The two countries have to work together to achieve greater cooperation in investment, tourism and other sectors. And I [have to] mention the importance of cultural cooperation. I believe that cultural cooperation is the basis on which all other bilateral relations can flourish. In this sense, the Angkor-Gyeongju World Culture Expo which was held in Siem Reap from November 2006 to January 2007 was a very significant event in the history of our bilateral relations.

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