Myanmar’s Ambassador Thura Thet Oo Maung (right) and Korean Deputy Minister for Political Affairs Yoon Soon-gu pose at the Burmese National Day reception in Seoul on Jan. 7. (Joel Lee / The Korea Herald)
As Seoul fleshes out its New Southern Policy to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian nations and other countries, Myanmar presents fresh opportunities with its business-friendly policies, according to the country’s top envoy to South Korea.
During the Burmese National Day reception on Jan. 7 in Seoul, Myanmar’s Ambassador Thura Thet Oo Maung said the Korean government could enhance relations with Myanmar by focusing on the “three Ps”: people, prosperity and peace.
“I believe that President Moon Jae-in’s New Southern Policy will become a major driver in boosting its relationship with Myanmar,” he said at the reception marking the 71st anniversary of the country’s independence.
“Myanmar is currently a very new player in the regional and global market. Recently at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stressed reform measures that have been undertaken to create a more attractive, investor-friendly environment, and pointed out the importance of responsible investment.”
The Burmese economy welcomes investment in the agriculture, livestock, electricity, education, health care and housing industries, as well as other labor-intensive and export-oriented sectors, and in the development of industrial zones, he said.
“The people of Myanmar had lived in successive kingdoms of magnificence and dignity for millennia. However, Myanmar became a colony in the late 19th century when the colonialism had a strength influence all over the world,” he said, referring to the period of British colonialism from 1824-1948 and the nationwide annexation of Burma in 1886.
Foreign envoys take part in a cake-cutting ceremony at the Burmese National Day reception in Seoul on Jan. 7. (Joel Lee / The Korea Herald)
Turning to relations with Korea -- diplomatic partners since 1975 -- the envoy said the two nations had enhanced ties in all areas. High-level exchanges between government officials have taken place more frequently over the years, including the Dec. 24 visit to Myanmar by Kim Hyun-chul, senior economic adviser and chairman of the Presidential Committee on New Southern Policy. He attended a groundbreaking ceremony marking the launch of construction for the Myanmar-Korea Friendship Bridge, which is being built with a loan from Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund.
The bridge will facilitate transportation and trade between Yangon, the Ayeyarwaddy region and Rakhine state, the ambassador said. “This bridge will be a historic milestone in our bilateral relations and cooperation, and we appreciate the Korean government’s assistance in the infrastructure development of Myanmar.”
Naypyidaw has granted visa exemptions to Korean tourists since October last year on an annual trial basis to attract more visitors. Following the waiver, Myanmar has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of Korean tourists, according to the embassy.
“Myanmar has a special meaning to me, as I have had many opportunities to see and experience firsthand Myanmar’s beautiful nature and the warm hospitality of its people,” said Korean Deputy Minister for Political Affairs Yoon Soon-gu. “I especially cherish my memories of visiting rural places to share Korea’s experience in rural development, called Saemaul Undong (the New Village Movement).”
Pointing to Myanmar’s strategic location in Southeast Asia, as well as its vast territory, rich natural resources and hardworking people, the Korean diplomat said he felt “confident that Myanmar is set to become the center of future growth and development in Southeast Asia.”
“As this year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of ASEAN-Korea dialogue relations, we will host the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit in Korea. To that end, we count on Myanmar’s support and look forward to working closely together towards a new era of friendship,” Yoon said.
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org