Phnom Penh (FN), Sep. 1 – The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is a bilateral grant aid agency of the government of Republic of Korea. KOICA has set up an overseas office in Phnom Penh since 1 September 2003, and this year marks the 20th anniversary of KOICA Cambodia Office.

If you travel around Phnom Penh, it is not difficult to see KOICA signs. Some may have seen it from the Preah Ang Duong Hospital and even from signs on ambulances around the country, while others may have seen it from the National Incubation Center of Cambodia next to the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Tourists may have seen the KOICA sign around Angkor Heritage in Siem Reap, nearby the Preah Pithu Temple and Elephant Terrace of Angkor Thom. You can find KOICA signs even on tuk-tuks nowadays. Over the years, KOICA has grown familiar to people living in Cambodia.

Despite the increased recognition of the name “KOICA”, people tend to have different understandings about the organization. For some people KOICA is the hospital or the school while for others KOICA is “krou(teacher)” for Korean language or Taekwondo, Korean martial arts. Some even think KOICA is the scholarship program. Their views may be different, yet they are all correct to some extent for the following reasons:

After her first establishment in 1991 under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, KOICA started cooperation program with equipment provision in Cambodia. KOICA expanded and diversified the grant modalities to invitational capacity building program, Public-Private Partnership program, Country Partnership Project and volunteer dispatch program. Over the years, KOICA has supported the royal government of Cambodia and her people through various programs which are worth about USD 366.5 Million.

The most iconic project in the capital city of Cambodia is the Preah Ang Duong Hospital(PADH). KOICA has built both EYE and ENT centers of PADH. Cambodian people refer to PADH as the “Korea Hospital.” With the new buildings and medical equipment, PADH can now better diagnose and treat patients coming from all provinces including surgical operations which were not possible before the KOICA project.

There are more than 3,529 Cambodian government officials who have been invited to Korea and participated in the training programs including the fully-funded scholarship programs. The Alumni of KOICA training program, so called Cambodia-Korea Alumni Association(CAMKAA) is very active in disseminating knowledge acquired from the training and in carrying out social activities in provinces. Besides KOICA has dispatched over 892 volunteers and experts to provinces in sectors like health and education especially for language(Korean)/ICT/early childhood(nursery)/music/physical education including Taekwondo training. From the capital city to all provinces, there are marks and legacies KOICA’s World Friends Korea(WFK) volunteers have left.

For socio-economic development of Cambodia, KOICA has strategically partnered with Korean enterprises and NGOs who are based in Cambodia as well. Hesed Agriculture Trading Co., Ltd., an agricultural business social enterprise, supports farmers in Kampong Speu and Kampong Chhnang to manufacture natural Palm Sugar products. Good Neighbors, a very active NGO all over Cambodia, trains tuk-tuk drivers in Dangkor district to be more financially stable and independent, and supports TVET institutes in Battambang to be equipped with better learning environment so that students can learn to be technicians in Electronics and Electrical Engineering.

On behalf of the government of Republic of Korea, KOICA has committedly delivered the responsibilities to strengthen the partnership between the two countries and bring the people more closely. As the old Cambodian proverb says, “Changkes mouy bach kach min bak (a bunch of sticks can not be broken),” collective efforts from both governments based on a sound and strong partnership will be continued as it has for the last 20 years.