Prime Minister Hun Manet has called on South Korea to increase investment in Cambodia, saying that the Kingdom still has enormous potential for value-added growth in agriculture, food processing and high-tech manufacturing.

He made the suggestion at the opening ceremony of the May 16 Cambodia-Korea Business Forum in the Korean capital of Seoul, during his May 15 to 18 official visit.

“Manet welcomed additional investment from South Korea (ROK), noting that Cambodia has enormous potential for value-added growth in agriculture, food processing and modern manufacturing.

“South Korea can use its technology to transform Cambodian industry and create mutually beneficial opportunities,” said a May 16 press release from the prime minister’s cabinet.

Manet explained that his government has established mechanisms to ensure a supportive and conducive environment for the success of existing businesses and proactive new businesses through carefully and regularly listening to the challenges raised by investors.

He said the government is committed to strengthening relations with the private sector and will work tirelessly to solve problems effectively and efficiently by adhering to the “think together, act together and share responsibilities” approach.

“Korea is a key development partner of Cambodia, contributing to the strengthening of the workforce, improving public services and building the foundation for sustainable economic growth,” he added.

The prime minister noted that since 2016, the government of Cambodia has issued visas that are valid for three years and allow multiple entry and exit with a single fee payment for South Korean investors holding general passports to encourage and promote South Korean investment and business in the Kingdom.

Manet noted the increased presence of Korean investment projects and businesses, both large and small, in Cambodia, saying that bilateral trade exceeded $ 1 billion by 2023, covering the textile, travel product, bicycle and electronic accessories manufacturing sectors, as well as the processing of agricultural products.

“Korean companies are playing a key role in the Cambodian economy. The contribution of South Korean companies in diverse sectors including manufacturing, real estate, infrastructure, agriculture, and financial services has helped to boost economic growth and accelerate industrial development in Cambodia,” he said. 

The prime minister also noted an increase in the exchange of labour between the two countries, as well as an increase in the number of marriages between citizens of the two countries. He added that more than 59,000 Cambodians were living in South Korea and about 7,800 South Koreans were in Cambodia, as of 2023.

Socio-economic analyst Chey Tech said most of the Kingdom’s exports to South Korea were agricultural products, adding that if Cambodia has the ability to invest in processing agricultural products for export to South Korea, it will be able to add value to those products before they are exported.

He explained that this will help more Cambodians to have good-paying jobs as well as increasing exports, in line with the quality standards of processed agricultural products and compliance with sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards. 

“South Korean investment in industry, especially in the manufacturing sector, has great potential. We have seen that South Korea has invested in areas such as cable factories and electronic component factories, as well as vehicle assembly plants,” he said.

“Because Cambodia places a high priority on this sector, especially the training of skilled workers to serve the industrial and the manufacturing sectors, it is an opportunity for increased South Korean investment in this electronic component sector,” Tech added. 

He explained that to increase investment from South Korea to Cambodia, the government of Cambodia should do more to promote the full implementation of the free trade agreement and exchanges between businesses of both nations. It should also establish a trade office to exchange information, while passing laws related to overlapping taxes to increase exports and imports between the two countries.

During a meeting with Manet on May 16, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo announced his support for Manet’s initiative to create a Special Economic Zone for South Korean companies and encourage a regular consultation mechanism between the South Korean Business Association in Cambodia, according to the press release.