In May 2020, Myanmar and Republic of Korea (ROK) will be celebrating 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations which was established in 1975. The year 2020 will be an exciting year for two countries as both will have general elections. Myanmar and Korea have common understanding due to similarities in geography, history, culture and people. Geopolitically, they are located among big powers and share a common interest to maintain friendly relations among them. Myanmar-ROK relations become much closer after Myanmar’s political transition in 2010. The opening up of Myanmar led to series of diplomatic move, economic cooperation, investment and official development assistance (ODA) from the international community including ROK.
Let me highlight some memories of the year 2019 that strengthen ties between two countries. The most remarkable one was the visit of President Moon Jae-in in September 2019 to Myanmar. His visit with the opening of the Korea-Myanmar Industrial Complex (KMIC) demonstrates partnership for development and prosperity between two countries. It has been a milestone for both nations, and is expected for Myanmar to attract more investments from ROK, making the bilateral cooperation stronger. The KMIC which is located in Hlegu Township, nearby Yangon, will be implemented in two phases (2019-2021 and 2022-2024). Once KMIC is completed, it is expected to host some 200 global companies and create at least 100,000 jobs. It is no doubt that this project will boost the local economy, improve local industrial sector and the country’s export capabilities. In addition to this, Myanmar has lower labor wages and human resources. This provides great benefits for the manufacturing sector and has developed industrial and economic zones with partner countries including ROK. In this context, we expect technological transfer from Korean firms to some extent as we need man power training in order to become skilled labor workers.
The ROK economic development and its ties with ASEAN including Myanmar are very important. Myanmar has been implementing economic reform process to create a more decent destination in the country for investors as it has adopted a people-centered and all-inclusive sustainable economic development policy. Meanwhile, the country has been practicing an investment policy which supports the national economic policy and economic development of the country. So, it is an opportunity for both Korea and Myanmar to cooperate together in economic development. Along with this economic cooperation, we, Myanmar can also learn from the economic model of Korea. During his visit, President Moon demonstrated his commitment of New Southern Policy (NSP) by taking part in the powerful leap of Myanmar’s economy. His NSP seeks to prosper with Myanmar, sharing much of the same philosophy and goals as of what is contained in Myanmar’s Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP). As MSDP and Korea’s NSP have similar concept, Myanmar and Korea can communicate on a heart-to–heart basis.
Another remarkable memory was the State Counsellor’s visit to Busan to attend ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit, ASEAN-ROK Startup Summit, Innovation Showcase 2019 and the First Mekong-ROK Summit. Bilateral meeting also took place in Westin Chosun Busan hotel where the leaders discussed to implement as a follow up of President Moon’s visit to Myanmar in September, focusing more on development sector and people-to-people relations. Believing that people-to-people contact and soft power is a tool of public diplomacy, the State Counsellor emphasized the growing soft power of media, artists and influencers, and the creative industries that have a huge role to play in promoting peace and resolving the pressing problems of today. Her keynote speech at Culture Innovation Summit in Busan stressed how culture is important to strengthen the countries ties. It is noteworthy to learn from her speech that co-creation of Arts between Myanmar and ROK has been on process with the co-production of three films, “A Winter Once upon a Time”, “A Flower above the Clouds” and “My Music Teacher Mingalabar” by JBJ Entertainment and SBS Medianet of Korea, and Big 5 Film Production and Fortune TV of Myanmar.
Besides these memorable visits of the leaders, I must highlight some remarkable memories of the year 2019 conducted by ASEAN-Korea Center which promote people-to-people understanding. One is ASEAN-Korea Train program in which Myanmar delegations participated with the spirit of friendship and commemorating 30 years of ASEAN-Korea in Korea. It created a unique opportunity for all delegates to travel together, share knowledge, and develop a bond of friendship. Another is the ASEAN-Korea Familiarization tour hosted by ASEAN-Korea Center and Ministry of Hotel and Tourism of Myanmar from 3rd to 7th December 2019. Four different Korean media participated the program covering Yangon, Bagan and Inle lake. These programs timely meet the growing importance of partnership between Myanmar and Korea.
I’d also like to pinpoint the common view between Myanmar and Korea sharing goals of peace-oriented policy. Building peace in Myanmar is the priority of current government policy due to the desire of Myanmar people to end the long-lasting civil war. Korean people also wish to see Korean peninsula as peace and stability, so we have same opinion to have peace. Drawing parallels between the bid to achieve permanent peace in the Korean peninsula and Myanmar’s effort to strike a deal with various ethnic armed groups, we hope that both countries would be able to progress together. The year 2020 will mark the 45th anniversary of Myanmar-Korea diplomatic relations and we hope for practical cooperation on peace and prosperity that may benefit all people. The remarkable visits of leaders, bilateral economic cooperation and people-to-people connectivity were memorable way to celebrate an incredible milestone of genuine understanding and partnership between the people of Myanmar and Korea.
– ASEAN-Korea Center website
– Keynote Speech of State Counsellor, Global New Light of Myanmar, 26 November 2019