Bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea fell by 5.5 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, according to figures received yesterday from the South Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Despite the drop in overall trade, an official at the embassy said that some gains in exported items from South Korea, such as fabric and construction materials, point toward a recovery in commercial activities.
Exports from South Korea to Cambodia reached $273 million in 2009, down 7.1 percent from $294 million in 2008. Exports from Cambodia to South Korea hit $18 million in 2009 up 26.6 percent from $14 million in 2008. The majority of those exports heading to South Korea were in garments, which accounted for $10 million, followed by $3 million of wooden furniture and $2 million of aluminum.
Gwang Ho-lee, commercial attache at the South Korean Embassy, said the drop was not too worrying with the trade volume from South Korea increasing by 20 percent in December compared to the same month the previous year.
“The decrease…in the first half of the year was two digits,” said Mr Ho-lee. “Now it’s much less.”
Mr Ho-lee said that garment factories in Cambodia were starting to export more and, thus, demand for raw materials from South Korea had seen an improvement, especially over the last two months.
In 2009, South Korea exported $103 million worth of fabric to Cambodia a rise of 15.1 percent compared to 2008. Automobiles accounted for $27 million of exports, a decline of 42.8 percent.
Exports of two-wheeled vehicles also saw a decline reaching $5 million, a fall of 32 percent. Exports of agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, however, hit $7 million, a rise of 25.3 percent.
Lee Sang-bum, secretary-general of the South Korean Chamber of Commerce in Phnom Penh, said he predicted that 2010 would see gains in both construction materials and machinery for agricultural projects in areas such as rice milling.
“One factory recently bought machinery for a corn drying system in Battambang [province],” he said.
He added that exports of automobiles would probably find it harder to recover from last year’s slump in sales.