Fletcher in the News

Prof. Sung-Yoon Lee on Myanmar's Relationship with the Korean Peninsula

The Christian Science Monitor

South Korea to North Korea: Learn from Myanmar

On May 14, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited Myanmar, partly with the aim of using the formerly isolated country as an example to North Korea of how it might benefit from improved relations with Seoul and the international community.

This week, in what some are calling a watershed event, President Lee became the first South Korean leader to visit Myanmar (also called Burma) since 1983, when an assassination attempt on the then-leader Chun Doo-hwan put relations into a deep freeze. Relations between Seoul and Yangon are only now showing signs of recovery. …

… South Korea’s leadership is hopeful that North Korea is watching Myanmar closely. “We want to tell North Korea that it must learn a lesson from Myanmar to cooperate with the international community and receive aid for development,” said Mr. Kim.

Thein Sein pledged to honor the UN nonproliferation treaty and UN Security Council resolution 1874, which was passed unanimously in 2009 after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon. Resolution 1874 prescribes sanctions on commerce and arms trading with North Korea.

Myanmar agreed to release a North Korean refugee currently being held after illegally crossing into the country. Countries that receive North Korean refugees receive concerted pressure from both North and South Korea.

“It certainly has the potential to be a landmark event, but it is still too soon to tell,” says Sung Yoon Lee, a scholar of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Massachusetts. 

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