SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

YUN Jaeun “Myanmar and Democracy in S. Korea and Asian countries”


South Korea maintains a democratic relation with other countries. They put priority on the domestic situation and were democratized finally in 1990s. They had a sense of wariness towards the support of democratization by European countries and especially America. When South Korea was under Dictatorship, United States was pessimistic for their democratization the reason of the Cold War and there happened so-called “Korean Gate” when President Park Chung-hee threw money around the United States Parliament to conceal his oppression of human right. Due to the raised situation, they had strong recognition so South Korea got democratization “autogenously” without any external factors.



There is an exception the Myanmar issue. Myanmar has the largest certified number of refugees in few years.  South Korea, same as Japan is understood to be gloomy for the refugee problem. Refugee Certification Rate in South Korea and Japan is 0.4%. It was the year 1997 that branch office of National League for Democracy (NLD) (lead by Aung San Suu Kyi) was established in South Korea and Kim Dae-jung was elected as the President in 1997 supported Aung San Suu Kyi who competed against military dictatorship in International Society. Kim Dae-jung wrote in his autobiography about his special attention.



Under such scene South Korea could not neglect the coup by the Myanmar military at the beginning of 2021. News about oppression against demonstrators by the army were broadcasted in South Korea very often and the Moon Jae-in Administration took actions during March consecutively. Moon Jae-in himself appealed in SNS on March 6 “I denounce violence by the Myanmar army and police and ask release of National Adviser Aung San Suu Kyi and the imprisoned”. On March 12, he imposed export embargo of military supplies against Myanmar army and suggested review of the Official Development Assistance (ODA). South Korea was evaluated to have changed repressively because they had given the ODA assistance to Myanmar on a scale of about $90 million in 2019.



South Korea has refrained commenting on minorities (Uyghurs and Tibet) in China and Hong Kong. As concerned the human rights question in North Korea each administration reacted oppositely. Those questions shall not be handled from viewpoints of “human rights or value” but they are linked with basic foreign policy in other word “the national interests”. Japan criticized China at “the United Nations Security Council (2 +2)“, but they did not follow the sanctions toward China by European Union and America. In Myanmar, correspondence by the Korean Government is evaluated in its own way. There are few comments which asked for the support of the Korean Government and people from Myanmar tweeted on Twitter and Facebook.



Myanmar students in Japan appealed necessity support to Japanese people on the radio program referring to South Korea on March 16. But reaction from Japanese society was lukewarm regrettably comparing the China issue which is intertwined with usual anti-China feelings. I had uncomfortable feelings toward the broadcast done in Japan. On March 2, NHK conveyed expression about Myanmar people in Japan under the title “Very sorry for our demonstration amid COVID-19”. There were demonstrations by Myanmar people in Korea too, but I have never seen such a title like in Japan. Demonstration amid COVID-19 is not prohibited in Japan. (In Korea, there is a limit in the number of demonstrators.) Myanmar students who appeared in radio program in Japan were shocked when they knew the criticism written (they should not have demonstrated) in the comments in Netnews.        



There are international organizations for human rights in Europe. But there is no such organization in Asia and the number of countries who has democracy is limited. It is not easy for democratic countries in Asia to raise their voices jointly for human rights. As seen in China and North Korea, their national security and interests are intertwined complicatedly. As many people know, it was Japan among advanced countries that lifted economic sanctions first against China after the Tiananmen Square Protest. It is said that there was consideration for economy and historical issues. I do not think it effects as far as they put priority on economics when they support for democracy. In Cambodia where Japan is assisting positively since 1990s, Prime Minister Hun Sen established dictatorship Government. It is far from democratic country. In Myanmar, we can see news reports “Japan asked self-restraint because Japan has connection with army too”. But Japan did not take any substantial measures.



Any assistance for democratic accompanies “intervention in the domestic affairs”. Under the authoritarianism, some counties are increasing their control over citizens taking opportunity of COVID-19. It is an important subject for Japan and South Korea as, both being democratic countries need to ask themselves “what is the function of democratic countries?” and “how to play a role?” Although we have no choice but to be skeptical, we can cooperate and  considering present tragic situation in Asia.



SGRA Kawaraban 667 in Japanese (Original)



YUN Jaeun / 2020 Raccoon, Associated Lecturer of Hitotsubashi University


Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koirala