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Park and Suu Kyi share tragedy and hope
Global Times | January 28, 2013 17:13
By Global Times
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Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader is set to meet with South Korea's President-elect Park Geun-hye Tuesday.

What the two female leaders have in common is their family's connections to power and their sad experiences of their fathers' assassination.

Park is the daughter of former South Korean leader Park Chung-hee, killed in 1979, and Suu Kyi of the "father of modern Myanmar" Aung San, murdered in 1947.

Such similarities will pave the way for a good environment when it comes to the meeting between the two.

Economic cooperation will be one possible topic on the agenda. In recent years, South Korea has been making efforts to carry out economic cooperation with ASEAN and provide assistance to these countries.

As the similar fates of Suu Kyi and Park may ignite sparks of friendship between the two, Suu Kyi is expected to seek help from South Korea in her country's economic reforms. For example, more South Korean companies can invest in Myanmar to help open up the market there.

Suu Kyi's political demands are also obvious. When Park Geun-hye's father Park Chung-hee was the South Korean president, he governed autocratically, without elections. The system let South Korea achieve economic growth, but prompted popular dissent that eventually crystallized into the pro-democracy movement of the 1980s and the subsequent transition to multi-party elections.

Myanmar is undergoing political reforms under President Thein Sein. Today is different from the time when South Korea experienced its own transition. The international environment has changed, and Myanmar has its own internal problems to tackle.

Myanmar is not expected to take exactly the same path as South Korea did. But the experience of how South Korea transited from an autocratic country to a democratic one is still worth Myanmar learning from.

Suu Kyi can draw lessons from South Korea's democratization process such as its capabilities in dealing with corruption.

I believe she will be interested in those, as she would like to promote democracy in her country through the most efficient ways.

Myanmar ranks poorly in the global corruption perception index. When it was ruled by the military, the government was extremely corrupt. Although the elected government took power later, the fact is that most official positions haven't changed hands.

Therefore, how to build a clean and honest administration during Myanmar's democratization process is also what Suu Kyi can learn from South Korea.

No democratization process is smooth. Emergencies may occur, and the process may halt or even retreat. Moreover, even as Myanmar is to gradually achieve the goal, decision-makers in the country should pay attention to how to set up effective institutions, systems and laws afterward.

Suu Kyi has been playing a very active role, both domestically and diplomatically, since she was released from house arrest and became a parliamentarian. She has visited Asian countries such as Thailand and India, and visited European countries like the UK and Norway.

Through these visits, she seeks to establish herself as a "people first" and "democratic" politician, and then change the world's negative impression on Myanmar.

Suu Kyi has become a remarkable figure in Myanmar's democratization process. She may be considering running in the presidential election in 2015.

Suu Kyi has been getting close to her goal. Her foreign visits have also helped gain the favorable impression and sympathy for Myanmar, at least in the countries she has been to. Her importance in Myanmar has been strengthened.

The Myanmese public, who used to hail her as a fighter for democracy, are now looking at her with different eyes as a skilled diplomat.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Wang Wenwen based on an interview with Bi Shihong, a professor of the Institute of International Studies at Yunnan University. wangwenwen@globaltimes.com.cn


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