Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend the Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the First Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit next week, while Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn has been invited to the North.
Cambodian Ambassador to South Korea Long Dimanche said on Sunday that Hun Sen would attend the two summits in Busan from November 25-27, with documents set to be signed.
Dimanche said his embassy and those of the other nine Asean member nations had worked with their South Korean counterparts to prepare for the summits, which mark 30 years of the establishment of a sectoral dialogue partnership in 1989.
He said Hun Sen would meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit next Monday.
Documents related to the economy, trade and cultural relations, he said, would be signed to strengthen and extend the “already good ties in all sectors”.
“Besides, there will be discussions on increasing our trade and investment relations, as well as cooperation in other sectors. Documents regarding the economy and trade, as well as other sectors, will be signed,” Dimanche said.
He said Hun Sen would also meet with some 20,000 members of the Cambodian community in Busan on Sunday.
The Republic of Korea accepts the highest number of Cambodian migrant workers after Thailand.
There are currently an estimated 45,000 Cambodians working in Korea. However, if students and women married to Korean men were included, the number would be more than 60,000.
Dimanche said Cambodians migrants send around $600 million home to their families each year.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Hun Sen began Cambodia-Korea ties back in 1997, seeing three major interests for Cambodia – economic, diplomatic and cultural.
He said South Korea was competing economically with Japan, China and the US in Asean. Cambodia should, therefore, strengthen relations with Korea, particularly regarding technological modernisation and youth exchanges, with the republic expanding its New Southern Policy, Touch said.
With the New Southern Policy, South Korea aims to expand ties with Southeast Asian nations and India.
“Cambodia-Korea diplomatic and economic ties should be strengthened because South Korea is a small country in size . . . smaller than Cambodia, but it has a population of around 52 million people and a strong economy.
“This is something Cambodia should learn from. Secondly, we never interfere in each other’s internal affairs,” Touch said.
Regarding the First Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit, Touch said Seoul should further collaborate with Mekong countries to compete with China’s regional Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Kil-song met Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn on Friday in Phnom Penh.
Sokhonn was invited by Ri to visit the North at a suitable time, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong.
Kuong said the last visit by a Cambodia delegation to North Korea was in 2012, which was led by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong. He said while diplomatic ties between Cambodia and North Korea were normal, trade relations were modest.
“Cambodia must have the same good relations with both Koreas,” Kuong said.
Touch said the Kingdom “did not have outstanding diplomatic relations with North Korea because the latter did not have a clear foreign policy other than to confront the US using South Korea [as a pawn]”.
Cambodia had good relations with North Korea because of King Father Norodom Sihanouk and his successor King Norodom Sihamoni, he said.
“Regarding reconciliation, Cambodia could play a role as a catalyst for facilitating improved relations between the Koreas if they were to ask Cambodia for help.
“As we know, Prime Minister Hun Sen enjoys good relations with South Korea, while the King has good relations with the North. So it would be good if Cambodia could play a role in a political compromise,” Touch said.
A compromise could also be possible because Hun Sen has good relations with both South Korea and China, he added.