Cambodia asked Seoul-listed LS Electric Co Ltd to incorporate its latest technology into Onion Mobility Co Ltd’s upcoming Onion T1 electric auto-rickshaw, to be assembled domestically and put on sale within the year.

Cambodian ambassador to South Korea Long Dimanche made the appeal during a visit to LS Electric’s headquarters and manufacturing facility in central South Korea’s Cheongju city late last month.

With its international positioning as a high-tech company, LS Electric’s direct investment in Cambodia or any partnership with firms in the Kingdom would be “very positive” for the country, Dimanche told The Post on June 7.

LS Electric working with Onion Mobility would boost the Kingdom’s budding electric vehicle (EV) industry, he said, noting the rapidly growing trend of vehicle electrification in the global automobile sector.

“As more and more technology companies come to invest in Cambodia, it will not only improve the livelihoods and create jobs of the local people, but also help transform the Cambodian economy digitally,” he said.

According to Dimanche, LS Electric is currently doing business in “six or seven” of the 10 ASEAN countries.

LS Electric said in a May 31 press release that Building G in its Cheongju plant – visited by Dimanche – is “recognised as the best smart factory of South Korea with automation system built across the entire line, from parts to assembly, testing and packaging of [LS] Electric’s flagship low-voltage power devices”.

It said it invested more than 20 billion won ($17.9 million) from 2011 for four years to “build a pioneering smart factory and advance the facility into a new business model”.

Chairman Koo Ja-kyun said: “Since the construction of the smart factory, the standby time of equipment has decreased by half, whereas the productivity has improved drastically by more than 60 per cent.

“Moreover, the energy usage has also been reduced by more than 60 per cent, and the defect rate sharply decreased to around seven per million, thus killing three birds with one stone.

“I hope the smart factory technology that enables the so-called ‘system innovation’ to facilitate mass production of diverse types as well as small-quantity production of customised types through the convergence of ICT [information and communications technology] and automation technology will be spread widely to ASEAN countries as our partners in the global market.

“LS Electric will be able to contribute to fostering lighthouse factories representing each country by cooperating not only in technology development but also in commercialisation,” he said.

Onion Mobility is a subsidiary of South Korean-owned MVLLABS Pte Ltd (MVL), the company behind the Tada app, Southeast Asia’s first blockchain-based zero-commission ride-hailing service which operates in Cambodia as MVL Tada (Cambodia) Co Ltd.

In February, the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the nod to Onion Mobility’s $20 million electric motorbike and auto-rickshaw assembly plant, the first of its kind in the Kingdom.

MVL Tada Cambodia general manager Chim Poly said Onion Mobility would welcome and be keen to work on its Onion T1 electric auto-rickshaw with companies that have advanced technologies.

“We really want to work with LS Electric to further enhance Onion’s capabilities,” he said.

According to Poly, the Onion Mobility team is working on setting up charging stations in Phnom Penh and still plans to officially launch the Onion T1 this year.

As of December 31, 1,263 Korean companies were investing in Cambodia, of which 227 were “large-scale firms” with cumulative capital investment totalling more than $5 billion – most in the construction and road infrastructure sectors, according to the Cambodian embassy in Seoul.

The value of Cambodia-South Korea trade was $246.02 million in the first quarter of this year, up by 1.78 per cent from $241.701 million in the corresponding quarter of 2020, data from the Korea International Trade Association (Kita) showed.

Of that, the Kingdom exported $99.07 million worth of goods to the Korean market, an increase of 5.6 per cent year-on-year from $93.85 million, and imported $146.94 million, decreasing by 0.6 per cent year-on-year from $147.84 million.

The Kingdom’s trade deficit with South Korea shrunk over 11 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter, from $53.99 million to $47.87 million.