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S. Korea, Myanmar reach summit deal to boost economic ties

September 3, 2019

 South Korea and Myanmar agreed Tuesday to open a new chapter in their relations by ramping up partnerships in the economy, culture and development.

In his talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor, President Moon Jae-in said, the two sides struck a deal on “concrete” ways for a “future of prosperity.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor, after issuing a joint press statement on the results of their talks in Naypyitaw on Sept. 3, 2019. (Yonhap)

Having flown from Bangkok earlier in the day, Moon also met with President Win Myint following an official welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar.

Moon is the first South Korean president to pay a state visit to the Southeast Asian nation in seven years.

He expects synergy between his government’s New Southern Policy and the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan.

“First, (we) agreed to establish infrastructure and lay the systemic foundation for effectively expanding economic cooperation between the two nations,” Moon said in a statement.

He cited a project to create the South Korea-Myanmar Economic Cooperation Industrial Complex near Yangon, the largest city of Myanmar.

It’s expected to help promote win-win investment by South Korean businesses, he said.

Myanmar plans to open a “one-stop service center” in the envisioned compound and launch a governmental “Korea Desk” team to assist South Korean investors in resolving administrative difficulties.

A minister-level joint committee on trade will be set up to offer a “stable, systemic base” for bilateral economic cooperation projects, according to Moon.

On the occasion of Moon’s trip, the two sides signed or exchanged memorandums of understanding on trade, port development, science and technology cooperation and partnerships on startups.

Myanmar is eager to attract foreign direct investment. South Korea is seeking to expand partnerships with the country, which is rich in natural resources and located in the center of Asia.

The two sides also agreed to accelerate development cooperation.

South Korea has decided to double its aid for Myanmar through the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) to US$1 billion between 2018-2022 from the previous five years. Myanmar provided South Korea with rice worth $50,000 in the 1950s, when its people were suffering from the Korean War.

They agreed to strengthen cooperation in developing farm villages in Myanmar, especially on the environment, technology education, scholarship programs and provision of school buses.

South Korea donated 60 school buses for students in Naypyitaw during a post-summit ceremony.

Moon and Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, also agreed to work closely together for regional peace.

Myanmar has actively supported the Korea peace process, Moon noted, suggesting that the two sides cooperate in the “Myanmar peace process” as well, which includes the Rohingya humanitarian crisis. Moon’s administration supports the “safe, voluntary and dignified” return of Rohingya refugees in line with the United Nations’ position.

The Myanmar leader pledged full support for the success of the November special summit between South Korea and ASEAN and the ensuing South Korea-Mekong summit to be held in Busan.

Moon pointed out that Myanmar’s city of Bagan featuring Buddhist art and architecture and South Korea’s Seowon educational institutions of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites simultaneously in July.

“I hope today’s talks will serve as a new milestone in the development of South Korea-Myanmar relations ahead of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties next year,” Moon said.

Moon is on a weeklong tour of the region, which already took him to Thailand, where he had a summit with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha mainly on deepening partnerships in high-tech industries.

He’s set for a two-day trip to Vientiane, Laos, before returning to Seoul on Friday.

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