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Korea, Myanmar share similar experiences but now are poised for a high economic jumpInterview with Ambassador H.E. Thura Thet Oo Maung of Myanmar

By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Ms. Cho Kyung-hee, Sua Kim

The people of Myanmar, who had lived in successive kingdoms of magnificence and dignity for millennia, became a colony in the late 19th century when the colonialism had a strong influence all over the world. In 1885, Myanmar lost its independence but all the people took up arms and fought for independence with genuine patriotism and Union Spirit. It led to regained country’s independence and sovereignty on Jan. 4, 1948. This year, on 4 January 2019, marks the 71st anniversary of the Independence Day of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

State Counsellor H. E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (left) and President H. E. U Win Myint of Myanmar (right)

With Korea, Myanmar established diplomatic relations in May 1975 and the two countries have strong ties not only in political, but also in economic, social, cultural and religious context. In 2019, it will mark the 44th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between.
Economic relations between the two countries a particularly brisk—with many Korean companies actively contributing to the economic cooperation between the two countries. Among them are Posco Daewoo Corporation, Lotte Hotel, Korea Land & Housing Corporation (LH), Shinhan Financial Group, CJ Corporation, and Yojin Construction & Engineering.

President U Win Myint is welcomed by Union cabinet members at the Presidential Palace following his taking oath of office at Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. Photo: MNA

The above were learned at a recent interview with Ambassador H.E. Thura Thet Oo Maung of Myanmar in Seoul on the occasion of the Independence Day of the country falling on Jan. 4, 2019. Details of the interview follow:

Question: Please introduce in full the Independence Day of your country?
Answer:
The people of Myanmar lived in successive kingdoms of magnificence and dignity for millennia. Myanmar became a colony in the late 19th century when the colonialism had a strong influence all over the world. In 1885, however, Myanmar lost its independence to British Colonialism. Consequently, all national people took up arms and fought for independence with genuine patriotism and Union Spirit. It led to regained country’s independence and sovereignty on 4 January 1948. This year, on 4 January 2019, marks the 71st anniversary of the Independence Day of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
In Myanmar, Independence Day is a major annual celebration that allows Myanmar people to reflect on the nation’s history. There are many traditional events and various activities across the country that people could participate during Independence Day in Myanmar. Most of Myanmar embassies in foreign countries are also celebrated the Anniversary of Independence Day. Myanmar Embassy in Seoul plans to celebrate the 71st Anniversary of Independence Day in early 2019.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President of U Win Myint pose for a photo at the Parliament building in Nay Pyi Taw on Fiday. Photo: EPA

Q: Please introduce the head of government of your country in full, including his/her family and hobbies?
A:
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi became Head of the country in the new role of State Counselor. She has become the country’s State Counselor in accordance with the state counselor bill, passed by both Parliament (Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyothar Hluttaw) signed by President U Htin Kyaw in April 2016. The bill is aimed at ensuring a multi-party democratic system, a market-oriented economic system, a federal union, peace and development in the country.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, born on 19 June 1945 in Yangon. She is the youngest daughter of General Aung San, Father of modern-day Myanmar, and Daw Khin Kyi.

She studied at primary schools in Rangoon, before studying in India. After graduating from the University of Delhi in 1964 and the University of Oxford in 1968, she worked at the United Nations for three years. She is the leader of the National League for Democracy and the first and incumbent State Counselor.

Ambassador H.E. Thura Thet Oo Maung of Myanmar

She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She is also the first lady to serve as Minister for Foreign Affairs. She served as a Member of Parliaments of Pyithu Hluttaw for Kawhmu Township from 2012 to 2016.

President of Myanmar is His Excellency U Win Myint. He was born on 8 November 1951. He is a politician and he became the 10th President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar on 30 March 2018.

He was the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Myanmar (PyithuHluttaw) from 2016 to 2018. He also served as a member of Parliament for House of Representatives from 2012 to 2018.
He studied primary education at Nyaung Chaung Basic Education Primary School and secondary education at Danubyu Basic Education High School, graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Yangon Arts and Science University.

He also won Higher Grade Pleader and High Court Advocate degrees. He worked as a High Court senior lawyer and High Court advocate in Danubyu and Pathein, Ayeyawady Region.
He was appointed as NLD’s committee secretary for Ayeyawady Region and later became secretary of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee.
He married with Daw Cho Cho in 1975. He has a daughter and a late son. His hobbies are reading, playing football and chin-lone.

Q: Please introduce the Government Minister in charge of economic cooperation and trade with Korea and other countries of the world.
A:
There are two government ministries which are primarily responsible for the economic affairs, namely the Ministry of Planning and Finance and the Ministry of Commerce. The ministers for these two ministries have been administering country’s monetary and fiscal policies, national planning, economic policies, economic cooperation and collaboration with international organizations, trade and investment promotion, trade facilitation and other economic related matters.

Q: As the Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, please introduce the progress of bilateral cooperation in the economic, political and other areas so far made during your tenure of office in Korea and your view of the outlook of further development between the two countries?
A:
Myanmar and Republic of Korea (ROK) have established diplomatic relations in May 1975. Looking back to the diplomatic relations between Myanmar and ROK, two countries have strong ties not only in political, but also in economic, social, cultural and religious context. In 2019, it will mark the 44th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Myanmar and ROK. Myanmar attaches great importance to the bilateral relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK).

Political Cooperation: During my tenure office in ROK, exchange of visits between Myanmar and ROK at various levels render great opportunities to promote friendly relations and cooperation between two countries.
The cooperation between two parliaments has significantly improved through the reciprocal visits of high-level delegations. H.E U Win Myint, Speaker of House of Representatives (Pyithu Hluttaw) paid official visit to ROK in October 2016. H.E Mahn Win Khaing Thann, Speaker of House of Nationalities (Amyotha Hluttaw) paid official visit to ROK in November 2017. Myanmar delegation led by H.E U T.Khun Myatt, Deputy Speaker of Pyithu Hluttaw attended 2nd Meeting of Speakers of Eurasian Countries’ Parliments in June 2017 held in Seoul, ROK. As well as H.E. Mr. Chung Sye-kyun, Speaker of National Assembly paid a goodwill visit to Myanmar in August 2017.

His Excellency U Kyaw Tin, Union Minister for International Cooperation paid a working visit to ROK in September 2017 to attend FEALAC Foreign Ministers meeting and Mekong-ROK Foreign Ministers meeting held in Busan. The other bilateral visits of Union Ministers and high ranking officials have been conducted more frequently during these years. I do believe that this is a good initiative and we will have a lot to learn from each other.
President Moon Jae-in government has been pursuing “New Southern Policy” which aims to promote relationship and cooperation with ASEAN countries. ROK’s particular interest between ROK and ASEAN countries including Myanmar will contribute in promoting friendly relations between Myanmar and ROK in the near future.

Economic Cooperation:
Since many years ago, Myanmar and ROK have been built good relationships and cooperated together for mutual benefits. The ASEAN-Korea FTA came into full force in 2009, so the economic cooperation has expanded in various areas such as in trade, investment and service.
The ROK has been providing EDCF and ODA grants for the development of Myanmar. On behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, I deeply express my appreciation to the people and Government of the ROK for technical and financial assistance extended to Myanmar. Moreover, other big project reflects the friendship of Myanmar and ROK is the Korea-Myanmar Friendship Bridge (Dala, Yangon region) funded by Korea’s EDCF.

Currently, ROK is Myanmar’s 6th biggest investor and 7th largest trading partner. So we have a strong and close trade and investment relationship between two countries. Korean garment factories are already operating in the country, so continued engagement with the manufacturing will be promoting.
The two countries aim not just to achieve economic targets through increased ties in trade and investment, but also commit to culture, education, development and poverty reduction across the region. So, there is no doubt that the cooperation and relationship between the two countries will be growing on momentum in the years ahead.
Since, Myanmar and ROK have well built up friendly relationship for over forty years, the two countries will continue enjoy strengthen relations and cooperation each other in the years ahead.

Q: Who are the Korean companies actively contributing to the economic cooperation between the two countries?
A:
Many Korean firms have already established in Myanmar and doing their business in various sectors. I just want to highlight some of them.
Posco Daewoo Cooperation has been participating in the oil and gas development of Myanmar and also engaging in a variety of businesses such as food production, power generation and it also has opened Lotte Hotel in Yangon last year. The Korea Land & Housing Corporation (LH), in partnership with the Ministry of Construction (Myanmar), is now also building an industrial complex in Yangon Region. Shinhan Financial Group opened its branch in Myanmar and some Korean financial groups have opened representative offices in Myanmar. Korean companies including CJ Corporation, Yojin Construction & Engineering have opened factories at the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ).


Q: What is the current volume of bilateral trade and its outlook in the rest 12 months?
A:
According to the official statistical report of the Ministry of Commerce (Myanmar), bilateral trade between Myanmar and Republic of Korea in this fiscal year (as of August) reached 346.946 million USD. The trade between the two countries was valued at 798.429 million USD in the previous fiscal year.
Myanmar exports agriculture products, fishery products, forestry products, rubber, coffee seed and garments to South Korea and imports cosmetics, food products, electronic equipments, mobile devices and industrial products from South Korea.
Since Myanmar has shifted its focus from trade control to facilitation and has been trying to promote trade, the total volume of trade is expected to increase in the coming years.

Q: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest in and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
A:
Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) has announced ten areas which will be prioritized for investment by both local and foreign entrepreneurs. The prioritized areas include agriculture, livestock and fishery, export promotion, import substitution, power, logistics, education, health care, affordable housing construction and establishment of industrial estate. Furthermore, labor intensive industries, capital intensive industries and the investments that can transfer technology to Myanmar people are also welcoming.
Being a developing country, Myanmar is still trying to engage with outbound investments in the oversea countries. In the future, I wish Myanmar business companies to invest in food, manufacturing, tourism, electronics and services sectors of South Korea.

Q: What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A:
There are numerous captivating tourist attractions in Myanmar to drop in and discover. Among them, I would like to highlight some popular places as follows:
Shwedagon Pagoda (it is certainly the main attraction of Yangon, former capital of Myanmar, as a tourist destination.),
Bagan (an ancient city and the largest archaeological zone in Myanmar, which is a temple town with the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas.)
Pyu Ancient Cities (UNESCO World heritage site.)
Inle lake (the cultural traditions of numerous villages on the lake, floating vegetable gardens and the leg rowing of Inle lake are very popular.)
Napali beach (the most beautiful and stunning beach in Myanmar which is located on the Bay of Bengal coast.)
Mandalay (the last royal capital of Myanmar where the Royal Palace can be found as well as other structures built by the kings and it is also known as a city of temples and monasteries.) and
Myeik Archipelago (the gorgeous archipelago lie in the Andaman Sea of the coast of southern Myanmar where visitors can get great opportunities for exploration and diving amongst spectacular marine life.)

Q: Please introduce yourself fully for the readers of the five media outlets (3 in English and 2 in Korean)
A:
I was born in Tharrawaddy, Myanmar. I began my childhood life in Thonze, Myanmar from 1962 to 1977, where I passed my matriculation examination. I got bachelor degree of Science B.Sc (D.S.A) from Defence Services Academy, Myanmar in 1981. I launched my career as a Second Lieutenant in 1981 and served in the Defense Services in various capacities, up to the rank of Brigadier General, from 1977 to 2007.
During in my Military Services, I received “Meritorious Services Medals” and conferred the title of “Bravery Award” for my outstanding performance. I received a Master of Art (M.A) Degree from National Defence College of Myanmar in 2003.
I was transferred to Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar on April 2007. In April 2008, I was appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to Brunei Darussalam. I was awarded medal for excellent performance in administrative field (first class) 2009. I have been posted to the Arab Republic of Egypt as Ambassador from October 2012 to December 2015. Currently, I am serving as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to Republic of Korea since December 2015.

Cho Kyung-hee  edt@koeapost.com

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