Lee Hyuk, secretary general of the Asean-Korea Center, sits down with Khmer Times’ Chea Vannak to discuss business and diplomatic ties between South Korea and Cambodia.
The Asean-Korea Center was in the Kingdom in May leading a delegation of Korean companies and investors. They visited agricultural areas in the Kingdom to explore business opportunities and shared their expertise with local enterprises when it comes to modernising food-processing and packaging facilities.
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KT: Can you tell me more about the role of the Asean-Korea Center in boosting trade between Cambodia and South Korea?
Mr Hyuk: We have been focused on promoting trade between Korea and Asean member states. When it comes to Cambodia, we are planning a couple of projects and events to connect businessmen and private companies from both nations and help them find opportunities to increase trade.
First, we conducted a trade promotion workshop in the field of agriculture and the food-processing industry. The Korean experts gave lectures to Cambodian businessmen in the areas of food-processing and packaging, and we are planning other events to attract Cambodian businessmen to Korea.
KT: You recently led a delegation of Korean companies exploring business opportunities in the Kingdom. What were you hoping to achieve in this trip?
Mr Hyuk: My delegation was composed of companies involved in agriculture and food-processing. We came here looking for business opportunities in these areas, and we were also hoping to help Cambodian companies improve their export operations by teaching them about requirements in the Korean market as well as food-packaging standards.
KT: Why did you focus on the agriculture and food-processing industries specifically? What other sectors or industries were the members of your delegation interested in?
Mr Hyuk: Cambodia continues to be heavily reliant on agriculture. In fact, it is the country’s main industry, so we came to the conclusion that we wanted to focus on agricultural trade, as well as food-processing.
There are, however, other sectors of economic activity that show quite a bit of potential in the eyes of our investors. Infrastructure is a good example. Korean construction companies could do a lot of good work in Cambodia because they have vast experience building bridges, dams, roads and railway systems in the Middle East and in other Asean countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
In addition to this, another sector that we think is particularly ripe for Korean investment is textiles. In general, the Cambodian government offers a good investment climate, so we are now considering all these options.
KT: Bilateral trade between both nations continues to be low. What can be done to boost it?
Mr Hyuk: The most important thing would be for the Cambodian government to give Korean companies more incentives to invest here. If more Korean companies set shop here, this would mean that they would have to import raw materials from Korea into Cambodia. Later, they will export their final products to Korea. This would make bilateral trade increase substantially.