South Korean president Moon Jae-in and his wife arrived in Phnom Penh on Thursday at the start of a three-day state visit to Cambodia to strengthen ties and further the friendship between the two countries.
After arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport in the afternoon, Moon was to have dinner with Prime Minister Hun Sen in the evening.
He is due to have an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace and a meeting with the prime minister. The trip is to end on Saturday.
Presiding over the closing ceremony of a conference on the 2018 achievements of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on Thursday, Hun Sen said he and his wife were to host a dinner with President Moon and the South Korean First Lady, Kim Jung-sook.
“On Thursday evening, I will have dinner with the President of the Republic of Korea in a family manner, and on Friday [we] have an official engagement and a joint business forum."
“The King is to hold an official dinner for President Moon . . . but I will meet him and have dinner with him – just him, me and our wives."
“We will [use this trip] to try to open up markets, and on Friday I will propose to him that South Korea buys more Cambodian products,” Hun Sen said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “His Excellency Moon Jae-in’s first visit to Cambodia will be an important milestone in Cambodia-Republic of Korea bilateral relations and will significantly strengthen friendship and increase the scope and depth of cooperation between the two countries.
“Following their meeting, the two leaders will witness the signing of a number of agreements and make a joint press announcement.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan told The Post on Thursday that the agreements to be signed will focus on trade between the two countries.
“We cannot say publicly exactly what they are about, but we can confirm that the agreements are related to trade and cooperation. And the agreements are open for negotiation between the two leaders.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ket Sophan could not be reached by The Post for comment on Moon’s visit.
However, Has Serey Thonh, a former ambassador to the Philippines and Laos, said the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk had, in his time as prime minister, built concrete relations between Cambodia and Korea which now run to the current prime minister.
“I think the two countries have good relations politically, economically and culturally. South Korea has played a major role in restoring Cambodia."
“It has provided development and humanitarian aid, and provided preferential schemes for tens of thousands of Cambodians to work in South Korea to help reduce poverty,” Serey Thonh said.
Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said relations between Cambodia and South Korea have been mutually beneficial.
Moon’s visit would increase tourist interest in Cambodia and enhance trust in the Kingdom for South Korean investors, he said.
“After last year’s national elections, some foreign countries seemed not to get along well with the Cambodian government, [as they] cared about such issues as democracy and human rights."
“However, the visit of the President of [South] Korea to Cambodia . . . is broad recognition of the leadership of the Cambodian People’s Party."
“With this visit, we get both political and economic benefits, and while the EU is considering withdrawing [the Kingdom’s access to its preferential Everything But Arms agreement], Korea can be a major market for Cambodia,” Phea said.
From 2007 to 2018, Cambodia has sent 61,580 workers, 12,905 of whom were women, to work in the South Korean agriculture, fisheries, construction and industrial sectors under the Korea Employment Information Service’s Employment Permit System (EPS).