New App to Help Cambodians in Korea Send Money Home

A leading South Korean lender has opened a digital bank in Cambodia and created an application that will enable customers—especially Cambodians living and work­ing in South Korea—to more cheaply send and receive money from abroad.

The digital bank, Liiv KB Cambodia, will operate its mobile app Liiv through Apple and Google interfaces, allowing customers to transfer cash from their existing bank accounts through the digital platform.

“Our target is the Cambodian people—we’d like to develop this business in the Cambodian market,” Park Yong-jin, CEO of KB Kookmin Bank Cambodia, a subsidiary of Seoul-based KB Kookmin, said on Wednesday. “We pay attention to workers in Korea and tried to make a product for them.”

Ninety percent of the bank’s Cambodian clients are migrant laborers sending money back home, Mr. Park said. Initially, as the bank builds the business, it will not charge transfer fees, he said, and will keep them low in years to come.

Kookmin is planning to partner with two or three Cambodian banks to facilitate transactions, as well as allow ATM access to the digital funds, Mr. Park said.

Cambodians living in South Korea were hopeful that the application would make remittances cheaper, but had doubts, given KBC’s history on fees.

“Most people here use Hana or Acleda to send money,” said Park Mi-hyang, who migrated to work in South Korea a decade ago and currently lives in Gwangju. “KBC is more expensive than all of them.”

For a recent remittance, Ms. Park said she had paid KBC $35 to proc­ess the remittance in South Korea, and her family had been charged an additional $10 to collect it in Cambodia. Competing banks, she later discovered, offered similar services for as much as $20 cheaper.

Kong Vannoch, the founder of an association of Cambodian migrant laborers, said that many of its 300 members weren’t comfortable with banking services, instead relying on Cambodian agents to carry money for them, although they often were cheated as a result.

“A lot of them have families in very rural areas. They’ve tried to send money through KB Kookmin before, but it only has a few locations in Cambodia. So they then have to transfer the money through Acleda, which charges them more,” he said.

Mr. Vannoch said some of the laborers in his organization—many of whom make $1,000 to $2,000 a month working in factories or on feedlots—would download the app, but some had concerns that their families would find it difficult to use.

“I think a lot of banks have plans to do this—not just KBC,” he said. “A lot of them want to make it easier for us to send money back home.”

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