Korean Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia Chairman Nam-Shik Kang says trade is rebounding
If the Cambodian government puts in more effort for investors, more and more will come."
How did the economic crisis impact bilateral trade and investment?
Cambodia has fundamentally poor financial [structures], so the global financial crisis did not impact Cambodia directly.
But ... Korea, China or some other countries, had a big problem with the crisis, making Korean investment and other countries pull back from Cambodia.
Have you seen any recovery to these investments?
Actually, in the last three years, from 2007 [through] 2009, many Korean investments were huge in Cambodia, but I don’t think this was real investment.
They were investing in land and real estate, not manufacturing. Cambodia is an underdeveloped country, so Cambodia not only needs real estate investment, but many investments to bring on the manufacturing industry.
What are your views on Cambodia’s real estate sector?
Cambodia’s land prices are high compared to other countries. For instance, land in Phnom Penh is almost the same as Seoul. This is crazy.
All of this makes everybody [more concerned] coming to Cambodia. I think this is not actual investment in the country, so we should see the real situation here.
What progress do you see here in terms of trade?
I think that the garment industry in Cambodia is likely to go up, and there are orders coming in from the US.
However, the construction sector will take longer. I received a report from the Korean Trade Promotion and Investment Agency recently, and our bilateral trade has started to get better, from early this year.
And it will continue to grow because Korea’s economy is also good now.
In which sector are South Koreans most interested to invest?
Of course, now first is construction, second is garments, third is the financial sector and fourth is tourism.
But of these sectors, I still think that the garment sector has the most potential for investment here.
I have met many Korean investors who want to move their factories from China and Vietnam, asking me about that. So we hope that Cambodia’s government will help them come here.
I think the garment industry has the highest potential, compared to other countries, because Cambodia has a lot of manpower, which is a significant point for the country’s growth.
The government should use this power more usefully. If the Cambodian government puts in more effort for investors, more and more will come.
How is the Korean trade relationship here compared to other countries?
Our relationship in terms of investment is not so good yet in Cambodia.
Cambodia should have some things to help investors, like changing some regulations or laws, and many other things to facilitate investment.
The significant factor making investors hesitate to come here are the high costs, like clearing customs, electricity and others, compared to other countries.
Another ... thing is having too many worker unions. A factory can have three or five unions, and sometimes they make problems with the management.
However, this is getting better compared to previous years.
The upcoming stock exchange allows for dual listings on the Korean Stock exchange. Is it realistic for Cambodian companies to expect such a listing? How might that boost trade?
I think this is progress for the country, the establishment of a stock exchange, which is a starting place for business.
However, I don’t know what the exact effect will be.
Also, the Cambodian people don’t know exactly how this will affect their lives.
But we keep watching for the future [of the exchange], because it is very important to have it started.
With the help from Korea, which has a lot of experience with that, I think it will be a great help in making growth for Cambodian companies.
So maybe the two countries will have a good chance for growth in business.
More South Korean tourists come to Cambodia than from any other country. And trade and investment by South Korean firms is high. Why is there such an interest in Cambodia?
I have stayed for more than 10 years in Cambodia, so I can understand something, because we have familiar cultures and societies.
Cambodians look familiar to Koreans.
I have been to many countries, but they are not like Cambodia. That’s why we see so many Koreans coming here for tourism, trade or investment.
Many Korean companies come here and invest in manufacturing, which employs thousands of Cambodian workers.
We have Asiana and Korean Airlines flying daily between the two countries.
This will make our relationship stronger in terms of country ties, and trade and investment will get stronger and stronger.
Are you optimistic about bilateral trade for 2010?
As you know, the global financial crisis has not finished yet, but I think in 2010 or next year, the global crisis and the Korean economy will have recovered.
So our two countries will be getting better, and I think there will be more investors from Korea coming to Cambodia.
I think that in the future – not soon, but around a year later – it will be getting better and better.
As chairman of KOCHAM, I encourage Korean people to come and invest in Cambodia.