The Making of a Global Economic Player? An Appraisal of South Korea's Role in Myanmar

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


Suddenly and unexpectedly, a er several decades as Asia’s backwater and basket case of interna onal development, Myanmar was thrust to the center stage of international attention in 2011. The country’s political opening has paved the way for greater engagement by interna onal players, old and new. South Korea and the United States are no excep on, with Korea doubling its development assistance, trade, and investment in the country in less than ve years. Myanmar serves as an excellent vantage point to observe Korea’s evolving role in interna onal a airs, especially in terms of its Asian engagement. Pragma sm drives the rela onship, with Nay Pyi Taw trying to diversify its foreign policy and a ract more investment, while Seoul seeks to expand foreign economic rela ons, extend the domes c market, and secure access to new resources. The paper’s main conten on is that while striving to ar culate a dis nc ve regional and global role for itself which goes beyond the usual ‘aid-trade-investment’ triad, turning economic rela onships into poli cal ones has proven di cult, and thus, Seoul remains more of a ‘payer’ than a ‘player.’ Economic coopera on with Myanmar has widened and deepened, but South Korea’s poli cal leadership has not been able to build on this momentum. Tackling this issue is important at a me when Korea needs to remind the new U.S. administra on, which sees Seoul primarily through the prism of the North Korean nuclear issue and the tensions with China, of its strategic relevance. Myanmar offers South Korea the opportunity to enhance its interna onal role beyond the immediate neighborhood.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWashington
PublisherKorea Economic Institute of America
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2017

Publication series

NameAcademic Papers Series on Korea


  • South Korea
  • Myanmar
  • Rising Powers
  • Aid
  • inter-Asian connections
  • South-South cooperation
  • South Korea's foreign policy


Dive into the research topics of 'The Making of a Global Economic Player? An Appraisal of South Korea's Role in Myanmar'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this