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[Newsmaker] Shinhan Bank employee shot in Myanmar, sends jitters across Korea’s finance sector

Anti-coup protesters run to avoid military forces during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar on Wednesday March 31, 2021. The Southeast Asian nation has been wracked by violence since the military ousted a civilian-led government on February 1 and began to forcibly put down protests. (AP-Yonhap)
Anti-coup protesters run to avoid military forces during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar on Wednesday March 31, 2021. The Southeast Asian nation has been wracked by violence since the military ousted a civilian-led government on February 1 and began to forcibly put down protests. (AP-Yonhap)
A Burmese employee at Shinhan Bank’s Yangon branch was shot amid an escalating bloodshed in Myanmar, the South Korean lender and a Burmese news outlet said Thursday.

The female employee was shot while heading home in a company vehicle, at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, after work. According to reports, she was taken to a hospital in critical condition. The employee’s current condition is unknown.

Shinhan has been operating a branch in Yangon with a minimum number of employees stationed at the building since the Myanmar military staged a coup on Feb. 1.

The bank said that it temporarily shut down the brick-and-mortar branch and ordered all employees there to work from home. It is also reviewing whether to bring the bank’s Korean employees back home.

There are currently three employees of Korean nationality and 33 Burmese employees at the Yangon branch, which was established in 2016.

Shinhan denied rumors that the vehicle was marked with a logo of the bank.

The news is likely to further dampen Myanmar expansion plans by Korean financial institutions. The country was once touted as “the next Vietnam” after it opened its doors to foreign investors less than a decade ago.

According to industry data, a total of 25 Korean financial institutions are currently operating subsidiaries, branches and offices in the country. Separate data from the Financial Supervisory Service showed that a total of 11 Korean banks were operating businesses there as of September 2020.

KB Kookmin Bank –- which launched its Myanmar subsidiary five days prior to the coup –- said that all of its employees have been working at home as of Thursday and plans to follow the Foreign Ministry’s measures in deciding whether to bring its Korean employees back home. KB currently has four Korean employees working at its office-turned-subsidiary and operates some 20 branches and microfinancing institutions across Myanmar.

Other lenders also said they would “closely monitor” the situation or heed to the Foreign Ministry’s decision.

All of them hinted that they currently have no plans to completely back out of the market, however, despite the US’ willingness to continue expanding its economic sanctions against Myanmar.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, more than 510 unarmed civilians have been killed with over 3,000 people detained, according to Burmese rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)
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