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South Korea is willing to invest in oil and gas industry in Cambodia, said a senior Korean official recently. “Korea is interested in investing in oil and gas and energy sector in Cambodia,” Jae Hyun Shin, South Korea’s visiting Ambassador in charge of energy and mineral resources cooperation, said during a meeting with Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen. He also asked the premier to support the plan. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed the plan and advised the South Korea to work with Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) for oil and gas cooperation. Cambodia’s offshore areas are believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits. To date, the country awarded exploring licenses to a number of companies to operate in six blocks, according to the CNPA report. During the meeting, Shin also asked the premier to give support to South Korean mining companies to do exploitation when they have finished their exploration process.

Cambodia and South Korea signed the energy and mining cooperation agreement in October, 2009. Currently, some 13 South Korean firms, including two of them partnered with Cambodian firms, have been exploring mineral resources in Cambodia, mainly in the provinces of Preah Vihear, Takeo and Kampong Speu, according to the report of the Extractive Industry Social and Environment Impact (EISEI) Network NGO released late last month. Japan’s state-affiliated Japanese Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) has also started the seismic acquisition operation for oil and gas exploration in Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province. JOGMEC would drill 6,000 holes, each has a 6-milimeter diameter and up to a depth of 20 meters for the four-month seismic survey in the province. Preah Vihear province, situated some 500 kilometers northwest of Phnom Penh, is home to more than 200 ancient temples including Preah Vihear temple, one of the world heritage sites.

Ho Vichit, vice-chairman of Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, said the seismic acquisition operation is one of the first steps of oil and gas exploration study and the operation will not have any impact on the environment and natural cultural sites. “The start of the seismic survey in block 17 reflects foreign trust on Cambodia’s investment environment and it is a new success for Cambodia towards the development of oil and gas sector,” he said. JOGMEC and Cambodian National Petroleum Authority signed the Basic Agreement for the Study and Survey Program in Block 17 onshore Cambodia in May 2010. The Block 17 onshore oil field covers a total area of 6,500 square kilometers of hilly forest in Kampong Thom.