The Newsletter 90 Autumn 2021

2021 Spring Revolution and Activities of Myanmar Youth in South Korea

Mya Kay Khine

Youth Action for Myanmar (YAM) is an organization formed by Myanmar youths residing in South Korea. Formed just after the military coup in Myanmar with the intention to support the pro-democracy movements of Myanmar citizens, YAM was founded by several Burmese international students studying in South Korea with help from the Korea Committee for Overseas Community Organization (KOCO). YAM members have been participating in various activities and events supporting the pro-democracy movements in order to let the world hear the voices of Myanmar citizens.

YAM has organized a series of on-going protests since March. Silent protests have taken place every weekend in Insa-dong, Seoul, a key tourist attraction. Donations received from passersby at these protests are, in turn, donated to the pro-democracy movements in Myanmar. Every week, protests also take place in front of embassies in South Korea. At protests in front of the Thai embassy, Indonesian embassy, China embassy, and many more, it is possible to hear participants speaking out against the military junta.

In addition to protests, YAM has undertaken a variety of other activities to support Myanmar’s pro-democracy movements and to garner interest from the Korean public. There have been interviews with various broadcasting stations. YAM has visited universities as well as elementary, middle, and high schools to give talks about the situation in Myanmar. YAM has often been invited to events hosted by religious organizations to speak out for Myanmar. Members have met with political leaders online for discussions and have been involved in several campaigns in collaboration with other NGOs. It can therefore be said that YAM members have been almost everywhere in South Korea in order to deliver the voices of Myanmar citizens, who are suffering under the military junta. To keep delivering the news about Myanmar to the world so that its citizens will not be forgotten is one of the key missions of YAM

The situation in Myanmar has recently changed as a result of the sudden surge of COVID-19. The situation has become worse day by day. The third wave of COVID-19, which hit Myanmar in July, put the country into renewed turmoil. In July, the per capita death rate in Myanmar surpassed that of Indonesia and Malaysia, becoming the worst in Southeast Asia. The dramatic increase in the number of infections and deaths caused great concern, particularly because public hospitals are now mostly closed: doctors and other staff have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement, refusing to work under the military junta’s rule.

This unfortunate concurrence of events has contributed to the deterioration of the situation in Myanmar. The number of people who have died as a result of the virus cannot be counted, and the author and other members of YAM have had close relatives pass away due to lack of medical treatment. The military cannot handle the situation well because the citizens of Myanmar have no trust in them. Moreover, they are banning the sale of medical equipment, such as oxygen concentrators, to civilians who are not supported by the military junta. COVID-19 is thus being used by the military junta as a weapon to suppress those who stand against them.

Fig. 1: Protest in front of the Chinese Embassy. The picket reads “The Chinese government should stop sitting on the sidelines regarding the Myanmar military coup” and “Stop cooperating with the Myanmar junta that massacres its citizens”(Photo courtesy of Yun Waddy).


Myanmar citizens in Korea are also facing difficulties. After the military seized control of the country, many withdrew their savings from bank accounts because they did not trust the junta. As a result of the cash shortage and banking crisis that followed, Myanmar students, in particular, have faced delays in payment of tuition fees and monthly allowances from home, leading to financial difficulties. In addition, the suspension of shipping line operations has meant that document submissions (e.g., for college, work, etc.) have inevitably been delayed, often leading to rejections from jobs or colleges. YAM has therefore organized a scholarship program to help students ease their financial burden. Sponsored by the organization Together with the World (세상과 함께), YAM was able hand out scholarships to more than 70 Myanmar students in July 2021.

Although necessary to demonstrate a rejection of the military regime, the time spent participating in YAM activities as been a costly expenditure for many of its members. However, an indifference towards the situation in Myanmar will inevitably bring about a sense of guilt. YAM members, therefore, have no choice but to walk a tightrope, juggling a sense of guilt and the need to secure time for their personal lives. Unfortunately, this has often led to mental health problems. The stress felt by YAM members has been alleviated somewhat by the strong support that South Korean citizens have been showing for democracy in Myanmar. In participating in various movements as a YAM member, the author met many Koreans who had great interest in Myanmar’s situation and came to join YAM in its movements and campaigns. For the Myanmar citizens who are fighting against the powerful military, this support from Korean citizens is a great encouragement indeed. The fact that Myanmar voices for democracy are heard by someone gives strength and the will to continue fighting until victory is achieved. One of the key reasons for YAM’s existence is to ensure that these voices are heard, in pursuit of democracy.


May Kay Khine, Undergraduate Student, College of Business, Seoul National University,