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Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar`s shining hope

Posted January. 30, 2013 05:04,   


Aung San Suu Kyi, who made her first visit to South Korea a few days ago, has been called the symbol of Myanmar`s democratic movement, "steel orchid" and the female Nelson Mandela. When her biopic "The Lady" was released last year, the movie`s title also became another nickname for Suu Kyi. She suffered misfortune for more than two decades, enduring house arrest by her country`s ruling junta for 24 years. She also had to make her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize 21 years after getting it. But Suu Kyi bounced back up like a roly poly to emerge as a symbol of democracy for both her people and the world. No nickname can sufficiently capture her turbulent life.

Myanmarese who live in South Korea cried in joy when meeting Suu Kyi. Myanmarese living in Korea can be divided into three categories: political refugees, migrant workers who sent money to their families in Myanmar, and students. Earning worldwide admiration and respect, Suu Kyi must have provided a huge boost of encouragement to Myanmarese living in Korea during her visit to South Korea. Nay Tun Naing, head of the National League for Democracy`s Korea branch, called her trip a historical event.

The opposition party`s victory in Myanmar`s general elections in 1988 appeared to sign an end to the military dictatorship. But the junta nullified the election results. Despite ample natural resources, the Southeast Asian country declined into the world`s poorest country due to crippling international sanctions. The winds of change blew after Thein Sein was inaugurated as president in 2011. Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest and joined her parliament last year through by-elections. Her visit to Korea was helped by Yangon`s new policy of "breaking away from isolation." After meeting President Lee Myung-bak and President-elect Park Geun-hye on Tuesday, she will go to Gwangju Wednesday to make a speech on the Gwangju Human Rights Award she received nine years ago.

The outlook for Myanmar`s democratic activists remains bleak despite Suu Kyi`s efforts. Maung Zaw, who escaped to South Korea in 1994, said, "We still have a long way to go." In meeting U.S. President Barack Obama in November last year, Suu Kyi cautioned against rash expectations, saying the political reforms of the junta could become a mirage of success. Zaw said genuine democratization will come only after constitutional revision. Adopted in 2008, the Myanmar constitution stipulates that 25 percent of parliament be comprised of soldiers. Opposition parties and democratic activists also want a law that excludes Myanmarese married to foreigners or related people from presidential candidates should be abolished. Nevertheless, hope is rising that the dictatorship will ultimately succumb to democracy. When will North Korea have such a democratic activist?

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)