President Lee Myung-bak and Myanmar’s President Thein Sein greet children waving flags of the two nations during a welcoming ceremony at Cheong Wa Dae on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
On November 19th Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the country of Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Myanmar, which had been locked in civil war and ruled under martial law since 1962, has recently seen a series of rapid political reforms as a result of the Burmese constitutional referendum of 2008 and 2010 democratic elections. Since the referendum, all eyes have been directed toward the country as many believe the nation has the potential to be the next economic giant in East Asia.
In October of this year Myanmar President Thein Sein visited South Korea in hopes to further boost bilateral relations and cooperation among the two nations. In meetings with South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, the two discussed issues concerning “the strengthening friendly ties, technical assistance for the development of Myanmar, human resources development, finance, economy, education, infrastructure, industrial development, environmental conservation, tourist, transportation, communications, science and technology, and energy and mining.”
Bilateral trade between the two nations during the 2012 fiscal year has reached nearly 1 billion dollars, as private and public South Korean corporations, accompanied by independent investors, are increasingly becoming interested in the resource-rich nation. According to Myanmar’s Mizzima News, “South Korean companies will seek investments in construction, mining, agriculture, electricity, energy, logistic and freight-forwarding, vehicles and auto parts, communication and multi-media, iron and steel, agro-fishery, timber and wood, financing, real estate, garment, transport, hotel and tourism, civil engineering and industries, officials said.”
Mutual Cooperation and financial investment between Myanmar and South Korea has the potential to elevate both economies and is of crucial importance for the country, as it remains one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia with approximately 32% of the population still living in poverty.