World

Yudhoyono predicts a bright
future for relations with
Korea

Indonesia and South Korea will enhance their partnership in trade and investment, targeting a three-fold increase in annual trade volume to US$100 billion by 2020, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said here on Thursday.

“The past five years were a very important period regarding the Indonesia–South Korea partnership. Ties have reached an unprecedented level,” Yudhoyono told reporters shortly before departing for Jakarta.

Yudhoyono met with South Korea President Lee Myung-bak at the Cheongwadae presidential palace in Seoul on Wednesday as part of his one-week Asia tour.

Of the more than 30 heads of state and government attending the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Yudhoyono was the only one welcomed by Lee with a state ceremony.

“President Lee and I agreed to boost the trade volume between the two countries to $50 billion by 2015 and to $100 billion by 2020,” Yudhoyono said.

According to official data, the trade volume between Indonesia and South Korea reached $30.8 billion in 2011 and $10 billion in 2007.

South Korean investment in Indonesia reached $1.2 billion in 2011, making Korea the fifth-largest foreign state investor in Indonesia.

According to Sohn Kyun-shik, the chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, about 1,500 Korean companies currently operate in Indonesia.

Indonesia has viewed South Korea as an important partner due to its significant capital and high technology.

“South Korea is also powerful in constructing infrastructure and industry, as well as in rich know-how and empirical experience. We need to capture those opportunities for the sake of our people,” Yudhoyono said.

South Korea, a resource-scarce nation that relies mainly on exports for economic growth, meanwhile, has considered Indonesia an important source of natural resources.

Indonesia is the most populous Southeast Asian nation and the biggest economy in ASEAN.

Seoul has also been aggressively seeking free-trade accords with foreign countries to expand what Lee called the nation’s “economic territory”.

South Korean Trade Minister Park Tae-ho, in a meeting with Indonesian businesspeople in Seoul, hailed Yudhoyono’s remarkable achievement in boosting Indonesia’s economy after it escaped the global financial crisis.

Yudhoyono also reiterated the importance of boosting defense ties with Seoul.

Indonesia became a major customer of South Korean defense manufactures after the nation awarded two massive contracts to South Korea last year, one of them to purchase two submarines and the other to purchase T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jets.

Yudhoyono, however, said that Indonesia would buy weaponry from overseas only if certain products were unable to be produced domestically.

“We don’t want to just buy, wait for shipment and use. We need to equip the purchase deals with agreements for technology transfer, joint production, joint investment, training cooperation, and so on,” Yudhoyono said.

Cooperation in the tourism sector was also discussed with Lee, Yudhoyono said.

“About 600,000 South Korean tourists visited Indonesia last year. We agreed to cooperate to boost the number to one million. In comparison, the number of South Korean tourists coming to Cambodia was about one million, while we actually have far more attractive tourism sites,” he said.

Yudhoyono and Lee also pledged to strengthen cooperation in other fields, such as renewable energy projects and infrastructure.

On tensions with North Korea, Yudhoyono said that he and Lee agreed on the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and stability, as well as the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, expressing concerns that Pyongyang’s rocket launch plan might hurt such efforts.

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