S.Korea, Burma Pledge to Deepen Economic Ties

Burma's president is drumming up support for more investment in his country as it emerges from decades of military rule.

Burmese President Thein Sein was met by an honor guard and flag-waving children at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul Tuesday before meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.

The two leaders agreed to strengthen economic cooperation and to pursue gas development and power plant construction.

Earlier, The Burmese president met with officials from small and medium-sized businesses, encouraging them to take another look at Burma.

"At present due to political and economic developments in our country there are opportunities as well as challenges in foreign investments. In this regard, SMEs in [Burma] should be prepared to face challenges as well as effectively utilizing investment opportunities. Thus we look forward to receiving necessary assistance and co-operation from Kbiz [Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business]," he said.

Burmas President Thein Sein (second from left) inspects an honor guard with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak (left) during a welcome ceremony at the presidential house in Seoul on Oct. 9, 2012. /AP Burma's President Thein Sein (second from left) inspects an honor guard with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak (left) during a welcome ceremony at the presidential house in Seoul on Oct. 9, 2012. /AP

The United States and other countries have been lifting trade sanctions against Burma in response to reforms by the country's military-backed government, making the resource-rich southeast Asian nation a prime candidate for investment and development.

Just last week, a South Korean firm signed a deal to build a 500 megawatt power plant in Rangoon. 

But while Burma is eager to attract foreign investment, potential investors have raised questions about the pace of reform and access to the country's natural resources.

In New York last week for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Burmese President Thein Sein said there is reason for caution.

"There is danger of business people ending with some control in administrative matters," he said. "That's why it's important not to have a negative impact on our sovereignty. It's also important not to destroy our environment. We don't want our natural resources to be extracted leaving nothing behind."

President Thein Sein's three-day visit comes about five months after Lee became the first South Korean president to visit Burma in almost 30 years.

Before Lee, the last South Korean president to visit Burma was Chun Doo-hwan, who narrowly escaped a 1983 assassination attempt in Rangoon by North Korean commandos.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

VOA News / Oct. 10, 2012 08:10 KST