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Bank heads to join Moon on Myanmar visit

Lenders hope to use trip to grow operations in Southeast Asia

Aug 27,2019
The chiefs of Korea’s major banks will briefly join President Moon Jae-in on his state visit to Southeast Asia next week as they seek to expand their footing in the region.

The heads and representatives of the country’s four biggest banks - KB Kookmin, Shinhan, KEB Hana and Woori - and state-run Industrial Bank of Korea and Export-Import Bank of Korea will visit Myanmar with Moon next week, according to local media outlets and sources in the banking industry.

“Of the different Southeast Asian countries that Moon is scheduled to visit, the heads will only accompany the president in Myanmar,” said a source in the banking sector.

The Blue House announced last week that the president will visit Thailand, Myanmar and Laos as part of his key diplomatic initiative of strengthening Korea’s cooperation with Southeast Asia.

“Most of the Korean banks don’t have offices or branches in Thailand and Laos, but the major banks have offices or branches in Myanmar and wait for the regulator’s approval to offer an extended range of financial services. They expect the planned visit to deliver a boost for the regulatory process,” he said.

KB Kookmin, Woori and KEB Hana have subsidiaries in Myanmar while Shinhan Bank operates a branch in Yangon, Myanmar.

After establishing an office in the capital city, the Industrial Bank of Korea has applied with Myanmar’s regulator to open a branch and incorporated unit.

Moon will head to Myanmar on Sept. 3 to meet with state councilor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

They plan to discuss cooperation on growth of the two nations and support for more Korean firms to do business in Myanmar, according to the presidential office.

In line with the trip, Korea Federation of Banks Chairman Kim Tae-young will make his way to Thailand to discuss cooperation in the private sector.

Industry insiders see the visit of the banking lobby group’s chief as intended to convince the Thai government to ease regulations on foreign banks.

Presently, only three Korean financial institutions - Samsung Life Insurance, KTB Investment & Securities and Korea Development Bank - are established in Thailand.

The law in Thailand requires a minimum capital of nearly $800 million for a foreign bank to operate in the country.

In a separate event, Lee Dae-hoon, CEO of Nonghyup Bank, visited China and Australia last week to explore potential business opportunities as the agricultural cooperative lender pushes for entry into the two nations.

Nonghyup said that the application will be submitted this year for Chinese operation with the aim of launching a unit in 2021.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]


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