Two Korean Banks Hopeful of Winning Approval to Open Myanmar Branches

By The Irrawaddy 4 October 2019

YANGON—Two South Korean banks involved separately in a low-income housing project and a joint industrial complex construction project in Yangon are hopeful of winning Myanmar government approval to offer banking services in the country soon.

If they are granted licenses, KB Kookmin Bank, one of South Korea’s largest banks, and Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) will be the second and third South Korean banks to operate in the country after Shinhan Bank, which was approved in 2016.

Currently, both KB Kookmin and IBK have offices in the country but have yet to win approval to open bank branches.

Officials from the banks told The Korea Times on Thursday that they are looking to enter the Myanmar banking market.

The Myanmar government has approved two banking licenses for foreign banks so far, and recently announced it would grant another by the end of the year.

KB Kookmin Bank CEO Hur Yin visited Myanmar with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month. During the trip, the bank inked a Letter of Intent with the Yangon regional government to support the city’s housing development project for low-income people by providing financing to residents and supporting employment opportunities.

During the same trip, IBK CEO Kim Do-jin met the governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar. IBK is participating in a joint industrial complex construction project being developed by the two countries on the outskirts of Yangon.

The Korea-Myanmar joint industrial complex, the first economic cooperation of its kind between the Korean and Myanmar governments, will begin construction this year in Hlegu Township. The industrial zone will be implemented in two phases (2019-21 and 2022-24). The project is led by Korea Land and Housing Corporation, a South Korean government-owned corporation responsible for the development of urban land and the maintenance and management of land and housing.

South Korea has made US$3.9 billion (5.96 trillion kyats) worth of investments in 177 businesses in the manufacturing, infrastructure, service and construction sectors in Myanmar. It is the sixth-largest investor out of 50 countries that have invested in Myanmar.