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[Herald Interview] People-to-people exchanges, key for Indonesia-Korea ties: former FMBy Sanjay Kumar
Published : July 4, 2023 - 15:11
People-to-people exchanges between South Korea and Indonesia is crucial in bolstering bilateral ties between two countries, suggesting the Southeast Asian nation's abundant human resources as a viable option to complement Seoul's declining and aging population.
"Indonesia is a country of 280 million, and Korea is 50 million, beginning to have the problem of aging," said Indonesia’s former Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.
"Sixty percent of Indonesian population are young, it's also a complement that's why exchange of people to people contacts are important elements in Indonesia-Korea valid relations."
Approximately 70,000 Koreans live in Indonesia – many for business purposes -- while some 50,000 Indonesians are based in Korea, he added.
Wirajuda was in Seoul to attend the Korea-Indonesia Forum commemorating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic Relations, held at the Shilla Seoul on June 26.
The forum discussed ongoing Indonesia-Korea cooperation and its future potential for the next 50 years, with South Korea's Foreign Minister Park Jin in attendance.
"Indonesia and Korea are middle powers in terms of economic development, as reflected in their membership in the G-20," said Wirajuda, addressing Indonesia's rich natural resources and Korea's developed economy, technology and innovations.
Wirajuda hoped for expanded cooperation in the Korea-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Solidarity Initiative (KASI).
"KASI has the potential to serve as a bridge for peace in the Indo-Pacific region, promoting stronger Korea-ASEAN cooperation and overall prosperity, according to Wirajuda.
KASI's objective is to enhance and solidify mutually beneficial and significant alliances with ASEAN and seeks to support the region in achieving freedom, peace and prosperity by fostering forward-thinking connections with ASEAN.
The Korean government views ASEAN as a critical partner for promoting regional peace and shared prosperity in its National Security Strategy.
Wirajuda expressed satisfaction about bilateral progress on climate change with Korean companies’ investment of billions of dollars in Indonesia, citing joint efforts to process plants for Indonesian nickels that align with the commitment to reduce CO2 emissions and promote electric vehicles.
Indonesia holds some 21 million metric tons of nickel, accounting for roughly 22 percent of global reserves.
Hyundai Motor Group is building a production line with a combined investment of $60 million in Bekasi, a city located on the eastern border of Jakarta, Indonesia.
Wirajuda, who played a pivotal role in establishing the Strategic Partnership between the two nations in 2006, was optimistic about future bilateral collaboration with Korea in politics, economy, sociocultural exchanges, and military cooperation.
"Military cooperation is an example of joint development for submarines as well as fighter planes," stressed Wirajuda.
According to the Indonesian Embassy in Seoul, the Indonesian National Army has purchased the Tarantula Panzer, the Indonesian navy has received the Submarine Changbogo Class, and the Indonesian Air Force has acquired the T-50i Golden Eagle and KT-1B light training aircraft from Korea.
As part of his schedule, Wirajuda also visited the ASEAN-Korea Center, where he met Secretary General Kim Hae-yong and discussed the center’s activities to promote sustainable and equal partnerships between the ASEAN and Korea.
Wirajuda and Kim held talks to enhance ASEAN-Korea relations and cultural exchanges and discussed strategies to work together in the future.
Referring to ASEAN's role amid the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict and US-China competition, Wirajuda suggested ASEAN develop political and security dimensions in balance with other pillars such as the economic community and socio-cultural community.
The former minister, however, acknowledged that political security in ASEAN has been somewhat neglected in the past.
"ASEAN should invest more time, energy, and strategy to deal with complex issues," urged Wirajuda.
He also expressed concerns about the current Myanmar crisis and the necessity for ASEAN to find effective solutions.
When asked about upcoming national elections in Indonesia, Wirajuda expressed optimism by noting Indonesians’ strong tradition of peaceful, democratic, and free elections.
He praised the previous instances of election disputes being settled through the Indonesian Constitutional Court, which plays a vital role in handling various complaints related to elections and constitutional matters.
Wirajuda hoped for a peaceful transfer of power and a similar outcome in the forthcoming elections and emphasized maintaining political stability for his country’s progress.
Concluding the interview, Wirajuda conveyed a message of expectation for The Korea Herald's upcoming Korea-Indonesia Economic Forum, commemorating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
"We welcome Korean businesses, and Indonesian people accept and admire Korea, not only due to the popularity of K-pop and K-dramas but also because of the shared history between the two nations," said Wirajuda.
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