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Scepticism surrounds $4bn satellite city project

South Korean-backed Camko City, north of Phnom Penh, has suffered from long delays, with some buildings remaining only partially constructed.
South Korean-backed Camko City, north of Phnom Penh, has suffered from long delays, with some buildings remaining only partially constructed. Hong Menea

Scepticism surrounds $4bn satellite city project

Government authorities are unaware of South Korean development, which is to include a university and hospital

A $4 billion satellite city project that South Korean developers say will spread across 2,000 hectares of Takhmao is being met with scepticism.

Realtors said the project was unrealistic, while most government authorities told Post Weekend they had never heard of it.

Local media were quick to criticise as well, comparing it to other Korean projects stuck at the development stage, such as Camko City, Gold Tower 42 and Booyoung Town.

The development, called “U City”, announced on December 31 at Hotel Cambodiana, is a joint venture led by Global Media Group (GMG) with four other entities, including two South Korean universities.

The highly ambitious project includes a university, hospital, TV station, LED light factory and arts centre. The developers say they intend it to become a tourism destination in its own right.

Construction of the South Korean-backed Gold Tower 42 project, on Monivong Boulevard, stalled in 2010.
Construction of the South Korean-backed Gold Tower 42 project, on Monivong Boulevard, stalled in 2010. Hong Menea

Yoo Rina, director of GMG, said at the press conference that the project was backed by the Cambodian government and would start in 2015.

She said the development process was divided into several phases, with the first taking four years and focusing on the construction of the university and residential buildings.

“The reason that my investment partners and I have come to invest in Cambodia is because I love Cambodia, which has a good culture and economic potential, political peace and a good relationship with Korea,” she said.

Rina could not be reached for comment for this story. Phone numbers listed online as representing Global Media Group did not pick up and there was no office located at the addresses under which the business was registered at the Ministry of Commerce.

This is not the first time U City has made waves on the Cambodian property scene with a bold, public announcement.

Po Eavkong, general manager manager of Asia Real Estate, remembered the project being advertised during 2009 and 2010.

He said the developer showed him the master plan, but the firm closed its office. Recently, he heard the project was going to be re-developed along the road to S’ang district in Kandal on land that is mostly owned by locals.

Yoo Rina, director of GMG (second from left).
Yoo Rina, director of GMG (second from left). Photo Supplied

“I only 30 per cent believe in this project,” he said.

“We don’t know who they cooperated with or which powerful person.”

Sung Bonna, director of Bonna Realty Group, said U City would require a large amount of capital, and that Cambodia needs more lower-priced residential projects as current developers only target the middle and upper classes.

Authorities in Takhmao and on the national level had a mixed response to the development, with most saying they had never heard of it.

Hem Sambath, vice governor of Takmao city, said Takhmao municipality did receive a proposal for U City from Global Media Group, but that she had only heard of the project herself through the news.

However, deputy department director of land management, urban planning and construction in Kandal province, Vann Varth, said he had not seen any proposal to cooperate with the municipality nor had he heard about the project.

He said the project should be done in line with Takhmao’s master plan, which will be finished sometime this year.

“If the project exists, the authorities and the master plan teamwork of the municipality will cooperate with it and support the project to make it easy,” he said.

Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, general director of residential department of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said he also did not know about the project.

Kim Heang, president of Khmer ​Real​ Estate Company, speculated that the investors behind the project might be using it to drive up prices in an area where they had land.

“Ninety per cent of Korean investors come here to sell their remaining land to collect their money and go back to their country.”

“Showing the U City development is just to sell the land at high prices,” he said.

Cheng Kheng, director of the CPL Real Estate Company and president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association, said that even though Global Media Group wants to invest $4 billion in U City, no one knows who owns the land it would sit on.

“The Cambodia Development Council does not even know about it, so how can it happen?”


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