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Korea to increase loans, aid

CAMBODIA further cemented ties with South Korea in agreements signed Thursday in Phnom Penh by visiting President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Hun Sen that will see Seoul increase soft loans to the Kingdom and offer help in the reconstruction effort following Typhoon Ketsana.

Lee, a close ally and former economic adviser to the prime minister, signed a deal that increased a loan agreement from US$120 million to $200 million through 2012 – an extension by one year – following an hourlong meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters afterwards that Lee had offered to help Cambodia rebuild following the typhoon at the end of September that caused extensive damage in Kampong Thom, Ratanakkiri and Siem Reap provinces.

“Lee Myung-bak promised to consider providing aid to Cambodia and urged their investors to continue to implement projects in Cambodia,” he said.

Nine agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed in total. An expected deal on mining was cancelled without further explanation by the ministry’s spokesman Koy Kuong.

Hun Sen signed a deal that allows Koreans one-year visas to Cambodia following a 33 percent decline in visitors from the country in the first eight months of this year. South Koreans have been replaced by Vietnamese as the largest contingent of foreign visitors to the Kingdom so far in 2009.

Lee in turn agreed to receive an additional 3,500 Cambodian migrant workers to South Korea on top of the roughly 5,500 workers that have already relocated from the Kingdom, said Hor Namhong.

Other economic incentives included a commitment to build an agricultural training centre in Cambodia that would include technical assistance, as well as human resources training. An extradition deal was also signed. The agreements boost existing ties with South Korea, which has become Cambodia’s No 2 investor since diplomatic relations were first established in 1997.

South Korea last year agreed to $1.2 billion in approved investments in the Kingdom, as its companies poured money mostly into construction projects in Phnom Penh.

An official at the Council of Ministers who spoke on the condition of anonymity said late Thursday that a further three deals would be signed this morning, two of which would be on information technology and environmental protection, although further details were not available.

Lee said Thursday that South Korea would also plant trees on 200,000 hectares of Cambodian land as part of a reforestation effort.

Following a meeting at the Council of Ministers, Lee is due to visit Angkor Wat before flying out of Cambodia to attend the 15th ASEAN Summit in Hua Hin, Thailand.

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