Moon Jae-in’s visit: Good for Cambodia and good for Asean

President Moon Jae-in’s current state visit to Cambodia is a crucial milestone in South Korea–Cambodia ties and also augurs well for Asean. Cheunboran Chanborey tells why.

The President of South Korea or the Republic of Korea (ROK), Moon Jae-in, is currently on a state visit to Cambodia which will end tomorrow. This is the first visit of a ROK president since President Lee Myung-back’s state visit in 2009 and official visit in 2012.

This visit will be an important milestone in Cambodia-ROK bilateral ties. The Cambodia-ROK bilateral ties have been rapidly promoted since the two countries established diplomatic relations on October 30, 1997.

Diplomatically, the bilateral ties have been cemented by frequent high level-visits. Noticeably, Prime Minister Hun Sen has paid official visits to the ROK five times since 2001. The bilateral ties have also been promoted through annual Cambodia-ROK Joint Commission (JC) Meetings, which are co-chaired by vice foreign ministers of the two countries.

Economically, Cambodia and the ROK have promoted their ties under the guideline of the Cambodia-ROK Joint Economic Committee. The ROK has been one of the leading investors in Cambodia with an accumulative FDI of $4.47 billion during the period of 1996-2018. It is worth mentioning that the ROK has invested in 123 industrial projects, which have generated more than 80,000 jobs for Cambodians. As of 2017, Cambodia was the seventh largest Korean investment destination, valued at $137 million.

The ROK’s foreign assistance has also played an important role in Cambodia’s economic development. During the course of 1996-2018, ROK offered a total grant aid of $300 million to Cambodia in five priority areas, including transport, water resource management, public health, education, and rural development.

Bilateral ties have also been strengthened by people-to-people contact and cultural connectivity between the two nations. With more than 50 direct fights per week between Cambodia and the ROK, South Korean tourist arrivals in Cambodia have significantly increased to 345,000 people in 2017. For the Cambodian side, approximately 61,580 workers were sent to work in the ROK under the Employment Permit System from 2007 to 2018. The ROK has also been supportive for the promotion of cultural cooperation and the preservation of Cambodian cultural heritage, including the restoration projects of Preah Pithu Temple and Elephant Terrace of Angkor Thom.

Cheunboran Chanborey is a member of the board of directors, Asian Vision Institute.

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