Cambodian goods exports to South Korea reached $113.780 million in the first five months of 2023, up 22.72 per cent year-on-year from $92.717 million and up 18.82 per cent half-on-half (compared to July-November 2022) from $95.76 million, according to Customs (GDCE).

The volume of merchandise traded between the two countries in January-May 2023 was to the tune of $303.599 million, down 16.09 per cent year-on-year from $361.829 million but up 4.8 per cent half-on-half from $289.71 million, as indicated by provisional GDCE figures compiled in “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins.

At the same time, the Kingdom imported $189.819 million worth of goods from the world’s 10th largest economy, down 29.46 per cent year-on-year from $269.111 million and down 2.13 per cent half-on-half from $193.95 million.

Cambodia recorded a trade deficit – the amount by which a country’s imports exceed its exports – of $76.040 million with South Korea for the five-month period, narrowing by 56.89 per cent year-on-year from $176.394 million as well as by 22.6 per cent half-on-half from $98.19 billion.

The East Asian peninsular nation was Cambodia’s 12th biggest merchandise trading partner for the period, representing 1.574 per cent, 1.239 per cent and 1.878 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($19.293 billion), exports ($9.183B) and imports ($10.109B), respectively.

For comparison, the most recent full year in which South Korea constituted more than three per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade was 2015. That ratio has decreased every year since.

In May alone, Cambodian exports to South Korea came to $23.180 million, up 38.0 per cent year-on-year, up 39.7 per cent half-on-half, up 12.0 per cent quarter-on-quarter, and up 28.3 per cent month-on-month. May has been the third best export month so far this year, after January ($27.304M) and March ($24.530M).

Last month’s imports from South Korea, meanwhile, clocked in at $41.254 million, down 12.36 per cent year-on-year, but up 16.0 per cent half-on-half, up 18.69 per cent quarter-on-quarter, and up 4.47 per cent month-on-month. The best import month thus far in 2023 has been January ($41.258M), with May coming in a very close second at just a few thousand US dollars less.

South Korea was the Kingdom’s 15th largest export destination and ninth-ranked import source in May, representing 1.560 per cent, 1.189 per cent and 1.89 per cent of the Kingdom’s international trade ($4.132B), exports ($1.949B) and imports ($2.182B), respectively, according to the GDCE.

In a June 21 interview with The Post, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng commented that the jump in Cambodian exports to South Korea suggests that the Kingdom’s products are resonating in that market, and predicted that growth will pick up even more speed as the global economy emerges from the current slowdown.

He credited the improvement in exports to “good” cooperation between leaders of the two countries as well as the bilateral Cambodia-Korea Free Trade Agreement and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The RCEP is the world’s largest trade pact, encompassing Cambodia, South Korea and 13 additional Asia-Pacific countries, including the other ASEAN member states.

On the flip side, Heng argued that Cambodia’s growing manufacturing and production capacity, coupled with global economic instability, may have diminished bilateral goods trade flows, particularly those inbound from South Korea.

“Increasing our exports is crucial. Exports have been fuelled by rising domestic production, and especially from the selling of agricultural goods and certain electrical and electronic components,” he said, noting that overseas Cambodian workers also send a lot of money from South Korea.

According to Heng, the bulk of Cambodia’s exports to South Korea comprise garments, footwear and travel goods, electronic components, and agricultural products, while notable imports include vehicles, electrical and electronic equipment, food and beverages, and pharmaceuticals.

According to the GDCE, the Cambodia-South Korea merchandise trade in 2022 was valued at $778.924 million, up 0.63 per cent against 2021, but still down 11.66 per cent from the record $881.761 million logged in 2019.

Cambodian goods exports to and imports from Asia’s fourth largest economy amounted to $233.638 million and $545.286 million, respectively up 20.38 per cent and down 5.98 per cent year-on-year, narrowing the former’s trade deficit with the latter by 19.2 per cent to $311.648 million.

South Korea was Cambodia’s 14th largest merchandise trading partner in 2022, accounting for 1.486 per cent of the global total of $52.425 billion, compared to the top three: mainland China ($11.686B; 22.291%), the US ($9.281B; 17.704%) and Vietnam ($6.136B; 11.704%).

The equivalent figures for previous years are as thus: 2021 (1.612%; $48.012B), 2020 (1.962%; $37.442B), 2019 (2.525%; $34.921B), 2018 (2.553%; $29.894B), 2017 (2.578%; $25.442B), 2016 (2.691%; $22.174B) and 2015 (3.159%; $19.095B). In 2015, South Korea was the Kingdom’s 10th biggest goods trading partner.