Money, Guns, and Gas: South Korea’s Relationship with Burma’s Military

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Daewoo International is under investigation in South Korea for illegally exporting military technology to the ruling military regime in Burma. Last week, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups in South Korea issued an open letter condemning Daewoo International’s alleged military support to Burma. This comes at the same time the company faces international protests against its controversial investment in Burma’s natural gas; an industry notorious for severe earth rights against the people of Burma.

 

Last week, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups in South Korea issued an open letter condemning Daewoo International’s alleged illegal supply of military munitions technology to Burma’s ruling military regime, also known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). To read the letter, click here.

Importantly, at issue is not whether Daewoo International exported military technology to the regime, but whether the technology was exported illegally without necessary permits from the Government of Korea.

Signed by twenty six groups in Korea, the open letter was released to the public and press and includes the following four demands of Daewoo International and the Government of Korea:

  • For the Government of Korea to perform a thorough investigation of Daewoo International’s business relationship with Burma’s military junta;

  • For the public release of all documents relating to the Daewoo International’s sales of military technology to Burma’s military junta;

  • For the Government of Korea to develop a regulation and monitoring system of controversial corporate investments abroad that allegedly perpetuate human rights abuses.

  • For the Government of Korea to review all existing Korean investments in Burma, and to promote democracy and human rights in the military-ruled country.

The alleged sales involve technology for fabricating fuses for bombs and reportedly occurred in 2001, five years ago. The open letter rhetorically queries whether five years of silence on the issue is indicative of incompetent governmental regulation or quiet collusion with one of the world’s most brutal regimes?

Both scenarios are likely the case, and EarthRights International believes it is highly likely that Daewoo International has a full history of military transactions with the SPDC beyond the alleged “illegal” transactions under investigation.

The “Special Business Division” of Daewoo International “provides military commodities such as artillery, firearms and naval vessels to Africa, Asia and the Middle East,” although this division has long been removed from the company’s online “Business Activity” profile, which is not to say the division has ceased to exist. The company also has links with the Sudanese government and controversial pharmaceutical projects in the Sudan, citing them as “major fields of involvement.”

Of course, these military deals generate comparatively less revenue flow than Burma’s ongoing Shwe gas project, which according to “Supply and Command,” a report by the Shwe Gas Movement, could earn Daewoo over US$89 million annually and the regime between US$12-17 billion over twenty years.

Click here to read “Supply and Command.”

Click here to read the open letter condemning Daewoo International’s support to Burma’s military regime. 

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