Moon hopes for progress in South Korea, Myanmar peace efforts

South Korean President Moon Jae-in meeting Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the presidential palace in Naypyitaw yesterday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in meeting Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the presidential palace in Naypyitaw yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

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, visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday expressed hope that both countries would be able to progress together.

Mr Moon, who met Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw on the second leg of a tour of three South-east Asian countries, said: "I am aware that the government of Myanmar is… placing priority on the peace process and striving to achieve national integration and unity among different ethnic groups, including the resolution of the Rakhine issue.

"I hope our two countries will make joint strides together by helping each other along the way."

Myanmar, grappling with international condemnation over a brutal 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine state which drove some 700,000 Muslim Rohingya to Bangladesh - as well as insurgent attacks that have recently flared up in Shan state - has been trying to ramp up foreign investment amid criticism that the civilian government has been too slow in reforming the economy.

Still, the Asian Development Bank expects Myanmar's economy to grow by 6.6 per cent in the fiscal year ending this month and 6.8 per cent the year after, as it modernises corporate governance and opens up its retail and wholesale sectors. From April to September last year, Myanmar's gross domestic product grew 6.2 per cent.

South Korea is Myanmar's sixth largest source of foreign direct investment, behind countries like China, Singapore and Thailand. Over 200 South Korean firms operate in Myanmar, including multinational conglomerate Lotte Group.

Myanmar has pledged to open a "Korea desk" offering fast-track approval and assistance for South Korean investors. Mr Moon will inaugurate the Korea-Myanmar Industrial Complex, north of Yangon, today.

South Korea is also expanding aid to Myanmar via its Economic Development Cooperation Fund from US$500 million (S$696 million) between 2014 and 2017, to US$1 billion between 2018 and 2022. Both countries agreed to strengthen cooperation on trade, technology and port and rural development. Mr Moon has pledged to strengthen cooperation with Myanmar on rural development.

 

Tomorrow, the South Korean leader will head to Laos for the last leg of his trip. He had visited Thailand earlier.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2019, with the headline 'Moon hopes for progress in S. Korea, Myanmar peace efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe