|Ambassador of Cambodia to Korea Chring Botum Rangsay poses as she prepares for the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Courtesy of Embassy of Cambodia in Korea|
Ambassador appreciates Korean first lady's visit to sick child
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol made a trip to Cambodia from Nov. 11 to 13, attending a series of meetings, including the South Korea-ASEAN Summit, ASEAN Plus Three summit and East Asia Summit, to strengthen relations with Southeast Asian nations.
Ambassador of Cambodia to Korea Chring Botum Rangsay, who was in Phnom Penh to arrange the events, shared the behind-the-scenes effort with The Korea Times.
"My purpose is to try and help out at the ASEAN Summit, because, you know, people see the glitz and glamour, but actually, our team has been working day and night for months trying to prepare and make sure that everything is going according to plan," Chring said during a video interview with The Korea Times, Sunday.
"I was there during the whole thing and we were having so many forays you couldn't imagine. But then, as the meeting continued to roll, we could feel everything going according to plan and all the delegation are happy and the discussion was very fruitful. And I can say that all the participating countries are going back with a happy smile on their face."
Apart from the summits and official statements, Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee sparked controversy during the presidential trip as she visited a child suffering from a congenital heart disease in Phnom Penh and took photographs with him instead of participating in the official first spouses program prepared by the Cambodian government.
Kim's charity act backfired as she was criticized for staging the photoshoot and imitating a photo of actress Audrey Hepburn holding a sick child while visiting war-torn Somalia with UNICEF in 1992.
Ambassador Chring said people are "over-politicized" on this issue, noting that the official spouse program that provided an opportunity to experience the culture of Cambodia was not mandatory.
"From my perspective only, I can feel that the first lady, since this is her visit, really wanted to explore Cambodia and learn about the culture. It seems like the visit to the children's hospital is something meaningful to her personal interests, very dear to her heart. We're very appreciative of her lending support to the disabled children. We value her kindness and gesture," she said.
She added that Cambodian first lady Bun Rany, wife of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, is also interested in volunteer work for good causes and supportive of such programs.
"We are very appreciative of (Kim Keon-hee's) kindness to take time out of the visit to give motivation and support to these children," the ambassador said.
|Cambodian Ambassador to Korea Chring Botum Rangsay, fifth from left, welcomes Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee as they arrive in Cambodia to attend the Korea-ASEAN Summit, Nov. 11. Courtesy of Embassy of Cambodia in Korea|
Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge coming soon
The ambassador said the Korea-ASEAN Summit focused on strengthening cooperation between Korea and the ASEAN member states in building peace, security and social development as well as trade relations and to address environmental and health challenges.
During the Korea-Cambodia Summit, the main focus of the discussion was to increase bilateral trade as the Korea-Cambodia FTA, which was signed in October 2021, will enter into force starting Dec. 1.
"For Cambodia, we're looking for ways to strengthen the exportation of our agricultural products. Over the past years, we have seen a very good surplus of trade from Korea to Cambodia, a lot of them thanks to technological products. We're hoping that we can increase our trade relations further," Chring said.
Cambodia currently exports rice and other fresh products such as bananas and mangos to Korea, but Ambassador Chring sees potential for more diverse food products to be exported as well.
"Cambodia is a country that is very focused on agricultural produce and is hoping to help in contributing to the solution of the food security issue in Korea," she said.
The ambassador also hopes for Korea to contribute in taking Cambodia's textile industry to the next level, emphasizing that though Cambodia is a small country, the country is part of the ASEAN community, with its population of 680 million, and can be a solution to address supply chain issues through the Korea-ASEAN FTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
¨We export a lot of textiles to the European market and also to the U.S., and we hope that we can increase our bilateral trade with Korea as well. We are hoping that with technological transfers, we can upgrade our industry to a more technology-based industry," she said.
"During the discussion we also brought about the upcoming project of the building of the Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge that we're very excited about. This bridge is a symbolic figure of our strong relationships that connects each other further."
According to the ambassador, the Cambodia-Korea Friendship Bridge will be a butterfly bridge, connecting three different banks: the riverfront near the royal palace to Chroy Changvar District then to the Arey Ksat area.
"This has really struck symbolizing the strength in relation and the close cooperation between the two countries. A bridge, similar to connecting people to people, connects country to country. It sends a strong message that Korea and Cambodia have become closer as partners," the ambassador said, adding that the construction of the bridge is planned to begin next year.
President Yoon also unveiled South Korea's new Indo-Pacific strategy, highlighting freedom, peace and prosperity in the region through the rules-based international order. While welcoming the idea, Ambassador Chring anticipated more details to come.
"We welcome all the initiatives and ideas from our partners, especially those that promote social and economic benefits to the countries in the region. But we're hoping to see more details of the Indo-Pacific strategy that President Yoon has proposed," she said.
|Cambodian Ambassador to Korea Chring Botum Rangsay, right, poses with Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin during the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. Courtesy of Embassy of Cambodia in Korea|
More people-to-people exchanges needed
Ambassador Chring, who arrived in Korea in September 2021, said her top two priorities are promoting the interests of some 50,000 Cambodians residing in Korea and the economic, social and cultural relations between the two countries.
"Those include the migrant workers, married woman as well as students who are currently studying in Korea. And then we have the Cambodian-Korean children, which is more than about 10,000 altogether. (The embassy is) to provide them all the help that they need."
Chring once again promoted Cambodia's agricultural exports for Korea.
"In Cambodia, we have summer almost all year round, roughly, so we can grow a lot of fruit and vegetables. I think for a country like ours that produces agricultural products, we can help supply and give a solution to the Korean market of fresh fruit and vegetables while we can increase our exports," she said.
"Just last week, I met with the new Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery and we discussed how we can help promote our agricultural exports. I shared with him the current situation or Korea ― how food security has become one of the main agenda points of the new government, how Cambodia can contribute to that ... and how can we work together in order to make the exporting process smoother and faster," the ambassador said, adding that she is going to start to work with Korea's related ministries and private sector as soon as she returns in December.
"I was fortunate enough to be part of the negotiation process of the bilateral trade between the two countries prior to my posting as ambassador, so I know the importance of these trade relations. In light of that, I can see a lot of opportunities between the two countries. Cambodia is still a developing country, so there's a lot of room for further investment from Korea," she said.