South Korea, Indonesia pledge to boost economic ties, people-to-people exchanges

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a joint press conference in Seoul on Sept 10, 2018. Mr Joko is on a three-day tour of South Korea.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a joint press conference in Seoul on Sept 10, 2018. Mr Joko is on a three-day tour of South Korea.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL - South Korea and Indonesia have agreed to strengthen bilateral ties and boost people-to-people exchanges, while their leaders expressed determination to increase bilateral trade to US$30 billion within the next five years.

"We have set a target for our bilateral trade to reach US$30 billion by 2022," Indonesian President Joko Widodo said at a press conference here on Monday (Sept 10).

Trade between the two countries amounted to more than US$17 billion last year, having increased nearly 20 per cent since 2016, reported Jakarta Globe.

Mr Joko held a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday during his three-day state visit to South Korea. The visit reciprocated President Moon's state visit to Indonesia in November last year.

During their last summit in Jakarta, they agreed to upgrade their countries' bilateral relationship to a "special strategic partnership" aimed at accelerating industrialisation in Indonesia, increase economic and trade ties and people-to-people exchange.

"What I wish to see is efforts to further develop and strengthen the relationship between the countries and I will work to make sure we will be able to realise actual changes," Mr Joko said in Seoul.

The two leaders also vowed efforts to increase exchange between their people, agreeing to launch a new "young leaders' dialogue" at Mr Joko's suggestion, reported Yonhap news agency.

To this end, the countries signed a new memorandum of understanding on cooperation and information exchange between their immigration offices, a move that could help simplify the immigration process for Indonesian visitors to South Korea, South Korea's presidential Blue House said.

Both leaders also agreed to expand cooperation in railways, real estate development and smart transportation systems.

The two leaders witnessed the signing of several memoranda of understanding, consisting of cooperation on immigration, security and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The two countries seek to promote cooperation in the automobile, information, communication and agricultural sectors, President Moon's office said in a press release.

During his visit, Mr Joko also held a meeting with South Korean business leaders, including CJ Group chairman Lee Jay-hyun and Hyundai vice chairman Chung Ei-sun.

CJ, which entered Indonesia in 1988, has invested US$1.3 billion won into its businesses in the country so far and has some 14,000 employees there, according to the company.

Calling South Korea an "old friend", Mr Joko on Monday urged its tech companies to partner with the Southeast Asian country on the development of the emerging technologies that are set to lead the fourth Industrial Revolution, reported Korea Herald.

"Korean companies such as Samsung and LG played a big role in bringing the smartphone revolution to developing countries, including to Indonesia," Mr Joko said at the Indonesia-Korea Business and Investment Forum at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul.

"I call on South Korean business to do it again: Bring the latest technologies to developing countries - this time, Industry 4.0 technologies."

The Indonesian president also thanked Korean companies operating in Indonesia.

Korean-owned garment and shoe factories employ more than 900,000 workers, and Korean businesses are a major source of investment in the chemical and steel sectors.

Several business deals worth US$6.2 billion were inked during the business forum on Monday, including one on a hydroelectric power development project in Indonesia involving Posco E&C, Hyundai Engineering and Korea Midland Power.

Posco E&C, KEB Hana Bank and IBK Investment and Securities signed a memorandum of agreement with MNC Lido concerning the first phase of a development project in Indonesia involving the mass-construction of resorts and entertainment facilities, reported Korea Herald.

Indonesia is viewed as a key country in the Moon administration's new foreign policy initiative, the New Southern Policy which he unveiled during his visit to Indonesia last year. The policy is aimed at reducing reliance on the US, China, Japan and Russia by expanding ties with Southeast Asian nations and India, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

The South Korean president has vowed efforts to nearly double his country's trade with ASEAN countries to US$200 billion by 2020.

Analysts say that Indonesia, the biggest economy in South-east Asia, holds huge potential for South Korea, the fourth largest in Asia.

"Indonesia has huge demand for infrastructure development projects, but the country has limited resources for them," Shin Min-i, a researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, told Nikkei Asian Review.

"This offers opportunities for the South Korean government and private construction companies."

South Korea was Indonesia's sixth-largest investor last year, contributing 6.3 per cent of total foreign direct investment, according to data from the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).

Shin also pointed out that bilateral ties are helped by the popularity of Korean dramas and pop music among young people in Indonesia.

More than 10 South Korean artists, including boy band BTS and singer G-Dragon had concerts in the country last year.

Mr Joko on Monday met members of K-Pop group Super Junior who shared pictures and footage of their meeting on social media.