Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that he would pay an official visit to South Korea in November to attend the 2019 Asean-ROK Commemorative Summit and the inaugural Korea-Mekong summit in Busan city.
The announcement came after he met with Lee Won-mook, the president of Konyang University, and Kim Hee-soo, the founder of the Konyang Education Foundation, said a post on the prime minister’s Facebook page.
It said Hun Sen also planned to visit Konyang University at Lee’s invitation. And he would meet Cambodian migrant workers in South Korea.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said he could not comment further as he had not yet received an agenda for the visit.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on Thursday that South Korea is an important trade partner.
He said South Korea’s direct investment in Cambodia is substantial, and it is the largest donor after China.
“Korea is Asia’s largest economy after Japan and China. Hun Sen’s presence at the meetings will be an opportunity for Cambodia to enhance cooperation between the countries and better attract investment and tourism.
“We have seen a lot of MoUs [memorandums of understanding] signed with Korea. The willingness of the two heads of state to work together also demonstrates that they can promote bilateral relations to an even higher level.
“The Korean government has many plans to help the Mekong countries. Cambodia needs to seize these opportunities because countries in the region are expanding their influence through their respective regional policies,” Phea said.
Political analyst Em Sovannara told The Post that South Korea is one of the “three” in the Asean Plus Three (APT) framework, along with Japan and China. Hence, he said Cambodia could benefit from Korean funding as a member of this forum.
“If Cambodia can make the most of development projects within the Asean-Korea framework, there are many benefits to be had,” he said.
The APT is the latest development of East Asian regional co-operation.
APT cooperation began in December 1997 and was institutionalised in 1999 when the leaders issued a Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation at the third APT Summit in Manila.
The APT leaders expressed greater resolve and confidence in further strengthening East Asia cooperation at various levels and in various areas, including energy, transport and information and communications technology (ICT).
According to the post on Hun Sen’s Facebook page, in the meeting with Lee and Kim, the prime minister thanked South Korea for assisting Cambodia in various fields, especially the health and education sectors.
Hun Sen made special mention of the contribution South Korea had made to providing eye care treatment to the people of Cambodia. “Many Cambodians have problems with their eyes and they need these treatment services,” the post said.
It went on to say that Lee reminded Hun Sen that he had visited Cambodia 10 years ago and had met with the prime minister at that time.
He thanked Hun Sen for allowing him and his delegation to meet and talk this time, it said.
Lee also informed the prime minister that he had visited the Preah Ang Duong Hospital on Thursday, and particularly its ophthalmology centre that was assisted by the Korea International Cooperation Agency.
He said he had also visited the Royal University of Phnom Penh because of the cooperation between it and his university.
Lee made clear his commitment to continuing to assist Cambodia in the future, Hun Sen’s Facebook post said.