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Neak Loeung Bridge, JICA’s largest grant aid project in the world, is being constructed over the Mekong River
Neak Loeung Bridge, JICA’s largest grant aid project in the world, is being constructed over the Mekong River. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Partners for a brighter Cambodia

Weather permitting, hundreds of millions of people in a large part of Asia will look up towards the sky this evening. The mid-autumn full moon that rises on the night of the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar is considered the most beautiful moon of the year.

Known as Chuseok (literally, “autumn evening”) in Korea, it is the time for getting together with families, appreciating the year’s harvest and honouring ancestors, while sharing good food. In Japan, the otsuki-mi (“moon-viewing”) ritual is practised in families or communities around this time of the year with special rice cakes, seasonal flowers and decorations symbolising harvest.

In Cambodia, the “Mooncake Festival” is typically celebrated among Chinese-Khmer people during the season with a variety of auspicious mooncakes, and lunar worship and moon-watching, which is also widely practised later in the year during the Water Festival by all Cambodians.

This season is a good reminder of our cultural connections founded upon the sense of admiration for the beauty that the universe offers to all of us on earth equally, irrespective of national borders or creeds, which we often forget in our busy lives.

Thus, this helps us jointly reflect upon who we are and for whom we are here, and upon our shared mission for the socioeconomic development of Cambodia.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) have long been serving as a bridge to channel the good will of our peoples in various forms of official development assistance (ODA) to promote peace and development in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

JICA, since opening its representative office in Phnom Penh in 1993, has focused its assistance on the rehabilitation and development of basic and key infrastructure, combined with the provision of technical cooperation in various fields such as health, education and governance. As the single largest provider of bilateral development assistance over the past two decades, it would not be an overstatement to say that the impact of Japanese assistance directly or indirectly touches upon the life of every Cambodian.

KOICA, which opened its resident office in Cambodia in 2003, is today the fourth-largest bilateral grant aid provider. The Republic of Korea, having achieved a dramatic turnaround from an aid recipient to one of the most giving countries, became a member of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2011. Based on Korea’s own experience, KOICA can make contributions highly relevant to the current Cambodian context. With focused support for agriculture and rural development, infrastructure, education and health sectors, Cambodia is one of the top partner countries for KOICA in terms of the volume of assistance.

As the implementing arms of ODA of Japan and Korea, two neighbouring developed nations in Asia with much mutual respect and cultural ties with Cambodia, both JICA and KOICA are now trying to draw upon each other’s strength and comparative advantages to maximise the impact of their support. With the rapid socioeconomic development of Cambodia and regional dynamics over the past decade, our strategies are today being realigned and refocused in accordance with the country’s changing needs. The focus is increasingly on improving domestic and regional connectivity, while addressing urbanisation challenges and improving the business climate to promote investment and economic diversification.

Young Cambodians participating in last year’s Chuseok Festival activities
Young Cambodians participating in last year’s Chuseok Festival activities. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Both agencies share the view that building strong foundations for much-needed human capital through support for education and health sectors remains a key to a brighter future for Cambodia.

Promotion of human-to-human exchange is also our common approach – through scholarships and trainings, which benefit hundreds of Cambodians every year, and the dispatch of dedicated volunteers across the country. The Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC) and the Cambodia-Korea Cooperation Center (CKCC), both within the compound of Royal University of Phnom Penh, have also been supported by JICA and KOICA respectively to promote educational, cultural and business exchanges between the peoples of these countries.

We are happy to announce that, with support from the Koreans Association of Cambodia and the Japan Foundation, on this mid-autumn full moon day CKCC and CJCC are jointly organising a special event, showcasing the full-moon festivities in Korea and Japan to be shared with the people of Cambodia. Everyone is welcome to join in and try out the various seasonal treats from both the countries.

On this occasion, we also join hands in expressing our gratitude for the warm friendship Cambodian people have shown us over the years, while renewing our commitment to continued and coordinated support for the people of Cambodia. We wish everyone a peaceful festive season under the full moon.

The CJCC-CKCC full moon event will be held today at CKCC, from 2pm to 5pm.

Baek Sook Hee is a representative for KOICA Cambodia. Izaki Hiroshi is the chief representative, JICA Cambodia

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