Interview with H.E. Jusuf Kalla, Vice President of Indonesia

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

By Matthew Fennell

H.E. Jusuf Kalla became Vice President of Indonesia for the second time in October last year and since then he has been looking at strengthening the relationship between Indonesia and Korea. On a recent trip to Seoul, H.E. Kalla talked about how the two countries have similarities in having struggled for independence and developed as nations in the last 70 years. Both countries have large numbers of overseas workers living in Indonesia and Korea and Mr. Kalla outlined his hope for furthering economic and investment action between the two. H.E. Kalla took time out of his busy schedule to speak with the Asia Society Korea Center to talk about his visit and his hopes for future Indonesia-Korea cooperation.

1. Welcome to Korea. What is the purpose of your visit here?

Korea is one of our main trade and investment partners. In fact, since December 2006 Indonesia and Korea have become strategic partners. My working visit to Korea is a demonstration of commitment on the part of the Indonesian Government to move forward and to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries, in the fields of trade, investment, and manpower cooperation as well as other areas of mutual concerns and interest.

2. There has recently been a cabinet reshuffle in the Indonesian government; is this an attempt to help boost the economy?

Reshuffling cabinet should be seen as part of our efforts to pursue strong economic growth despite current global economic challenges. By having competent technocrats in the cabinet, we think we will be more able to further pursue our development goals.

3. Korean Deputy Prime Minister Hwang Woo-Yea recently visited Jakarta and held bilateral talks with you. What were some of the things that you both discussed?

We met in Jakarta on 22 April 2015, when Deputy Prime Minister Hwang Woo-Yea was in Indonesia to attend the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Asian African Conference. In fact, my visit here is partly to respond to the invitation extended to me by Deputy PM Hwang. During our meeting, we discussed wide areas of cooperation that could be improved. For instance, Korean Government has expressed its commitment to continue to provide good environment for Indonesian workers in Korea. There are presently about 35 thousand Indonesian migrant workers in Korea, and the number is growing. Furthermore, we have agreed to enhance cooperation in the field of education including promoting the youth exchange program. We also discussed opportunity to strengthen trade cooperation through the resumption of Indonesia-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IK-CEPA) negotiation. Also at my meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Hwang, I encouraged Korean government to support Korean businesses looking to take part in Indonesia's economic development through its participation in the projects offered by Indonesia such as in infrastructure, manufacturing, agricultural and defense industry.

4. What are some areas of cooperation that you hope to develop between Indonesia and Korea in the future?

First, Indonesia – Korea trade cooperation shows a wide potential to be developed. Korea trade with Indonesia was around US$ 24 billion last year. Indonesia ranked number eight for Korea export destination and number eleven for import. As our two economies are complementary, we have the opportunity to grow our bilateral trade stronger. In addition, as major economic power in the region, and as members of G20, both Korea and Indonesia aim for a stronger international economic cooperation, a better global trade policy coordination and a broader collective efforts in addressing global challenges.
Secondly, Indonesia is now focusing on building infrastructure and has launched major projects in several provinces in Indonesia. For instance, we are in the process of building power generation plant, designed to provide an additional 35,000 megawatts by 2019 to address shortfall in power supply. We are also building a number of sea ports, highway, airports and other infrastructure to help boost our competitiveness and economic growth, also to increase productivity of the industry sectors in Indonesia. This development of infrastructure, along with other numerous projects in Indonesia, provides huge opportunities for Korean and other multinational companies to take part in Indonesia’s progress.
Thirdly, Indonesia and Korea can develop a maritime-based cooperation. President Joko Widodo has stated his pan-Indo-Pacific vision as a roadmap for Indonesia’s maritime strategy. Jokowi’s vision aims to enable Indonesia to project itself as a maritime power in the greater Indo-Pacific region. In a bilateral context, we can promote bilateral cooperation and exchanges in the marine sector such as holding joint training sessions, sharing professional knowledge and technology related to search and rescue operations etc.
Other area of cooperation that can potentially grow relates to people to people contact between Indonesia and Korea. For example, we have around 1,200 students now studying in Korea. On the other hand, many Korean people also took the opportunity to study in Indonesia. Obviously, tourism is another sector which plays an important role in increasing the movement of people of the two countries.

5. 500,000 Indonesians are currently employed in South Korea. What benefits do Korean business bring to Indonesia?

There are actually around 35 thousand Indonesian migrant workers in Korea. And there are around 50,000 Korean people living in Indonesia, making Korean the biggest expatriate community in Indonesia. There are a lot of benefits from the exchange of people between Indonesia and Korea. We can develop stronger economic cooperation, through people to people contact and socio-cultural cooperation.

6. With such a large movement of people between the two countries, how big of an impact does Korean pop music and culture have on Indonesian people?

K-drama and K-pop have gained a large number of loyal followers and fans in Indonesia. K-pop concerts and performance in Indonesia always attract millions of teenagers and adult fans. TV Dramas such as Dae Jang Geum, Jumong etc. are very popular in Indonesia. You might like to know that Psy, the singer of Gangnam style had made a special video contribution in support of the holding of the Asia-Africa Conference in Indonesia last April.

7. What aspects of Korean culture are particularly appealing to Indonesians?

Indonesians in general have great admiration for the focus of Korean parents on the education of their children. We also admire the phali-phali culture, the work ethics of the Korean people. I must also add that Korean food is very popular in Indonesia, and Korean Martial Art, Taekwondo has gained a lot of interest among Indonesian youth.