UPDATE : 2019.9.21 SAT 10:58
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S. Korea, Myanmar reach summit deal to boost economic ties

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

The accord came at talks here between the leaders of the two countries -- President Moon Jae-in and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Moon was on a state visit to Myanmar, which Aung San Suu Kyi described as a milestone in friendly, cooperative bilateral ties.

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)

Summarizing the results of the summit, Moon said the two sides struck a deal on "concrete" ways for a "future of prosperity."

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 the capital city of Naypyitaw.

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 stated.

He cited a project to create the South Korea-Myanmar industrial complex just north of 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.

Aung San Suu Kyi expressed hope for more people-to-people exchanges, stressing the need to cement cooperation especially in tourism, education and culture.

"In terms of the tourism sector, as you know, (Myanmar's) visa waiver for South Koreans is already in effect," she told reporters, standing next to Moon.

As South Korean dramas and other TV programs are popular among Myanmar people, she added, the Myanmar government would like to publicize the nation's culture in South Korea.

With two-way trade on a steady increase, Myanmar is doing its best to draw more investment from South Korea, she said. Myanmar is rich in natural resources and geographically important, sitting between China and India, for South Korean companies.

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.

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. (Yonhap)

Paul Kim  edt@koreapost.com

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