The Political Drivers of South Korea's Official Development Assistance to Myanmar
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 40, Number 3, December 2018
- pp. 475-502
- Additional Information
Since the early 2010s, South Korea has increased its official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar. Previous studies have highlighted the economic benefits of ODA to both South Korea and Myanmar, but the political motivations of Seoul's ODA policy towards Naypyidaw have received less scholarly attention. To fill this literature gap, this article analyses the three political factors underlying South Korea's increased ODA to Myanmar over the past ten years: Seoul's considerations regarding North Korea; South Korea's geopolitical competition with China and Japan; and the domestic constituents of ODA policymaking in South Korea. Adopting the concepts of realism and soft power, this article argues that national security interests and political motivations, including the intentions of ODA policymakers led by the president, have been important drivers of South Korea's increased ODA to Myanmar. In examining the role of domestic policymaking dynamics, this article uses as a case-study the K-town project in Myanmar which figured in the 2016 Choi Soon-sil-Gate scandal.