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Indonesia, Korea to set new milestones after Yoon’s visit: minister

Minister suggests enhancing exchange student program, extending sojourn period for E-9 visa holders

Sept. 5, 2023 - 13:35 By Sanjay Kumar
Mohammad Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Lotte Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Indonesia and Korea are poised to embark on a transformative journey that will shape the next 50 years of their bilateral ties, said Mohammad Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, in an interview with The Korea Herald on Thursday.

When asked to comment about possible achievements over the next 50 years of bilateral ties, the minister said that Indonesia and Korea would set new milestones when South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Indonesian President Joko Widodo meet later this week.

Yoon was set to visit Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday for a four-day visit to attend the ASEAN summit and hold a separate summit with the Indonesian leader.

"Indonesia and South Korea have grown into middle powers and are upholding universal values to create peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world," he said.

Indonesia’s commitment to share values with Korea is reflected in various international forums, including ASEAN Plus, the G-20, APEC, MIKTA and the Forum of East Asia and Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC), which focus on future-oriented fields such as infrastructure development, energy security and food security.

"People of both countries will understand and get to know each other better," he said, hoping to achieve mutual prosperity and maintain regional peace and stability.

The Coordinating Minister's visit to Seoul coincided with Indonesia's 78th Independence Day celebrations and the 50th anniversary of Indonesia-Korea bilateral ties, following his trips to Turkey and the Netherlands.

He praised the role of cross-sector relationships forged through high-level visits and meetings with members of the National Assembly, business leaders, educational institutions and various other organizations in solidifying the strategic relationship aimed at achieving prosperity.

During his visit, he met with South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo over breakfast, where they discussed agendas for expanding cooperation in labor, visa work contracts and education.

He also held a courtesy talk with Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, chair of the ruling People Power Party, ahead of a diplomatic reception marking the 50th anniversary of Indonesia-Korea relations and Indonesia's 78th Independence Day.

Mohammad Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, interacts with Kim Gi-hyeon, chair of the ruling People Power Party, at Lotte Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Mahfud expressed his hopes for an enhanced exchange student program and increased scholarship quotas for students to study in each other's countries, underscoring future-oriented cooperation with Korea to promote equality and foster collaboration.

He also noted the historical adversities both Indonesia and Korea faced due to colonization but recommended a forward-thinking approach for a more productive future.

"We want to move forward into the future and hope that Korea also has the same mindset," he said.

Highlighting Indonesia's population of 275 million, the minister stressed the need to expand the stay permit for E-9 migrant workers in Korea. Currently, E-9 visa holders' stays are limited to four years and 10 months.

"Reviewing visa regulations will enable E-9 Indonesians to stay up to 10 years and they can bring their family members to Korea," Mahfud said, citing his conversation with Prime Minister Han on Thursday.

He urged both nations to harness each other's strengths, with Indonesia utilizing Korean technology and Korea tapping into Indonesia's abundant natural and human resources, aiming for win-win diplomacy.

Mahfud lauded Indonesia as the only Southeast Asian country with a Special Strategic Partnership with Korea, underscoring shared values of democracy, an open economy and peace-loving philosophies that advocate human rights to uphold international law as the foundation for bilateral, regional and international fronts.

"The relationship between Indonesian and Korean youth has improved," he told The Korea Herald.

He also pointed out the increasing interest of Indonesian youth in Korean films, dramas and entertainment, emphasizing that the bond established through the Korean wave transcends borders.

Concluding the interview, Mahfud shared a message to Indonesian and Korean youth commemorating 50 years of bilateral ties and expressed his belief that the assimilation of cultures would promote noble ideals such as equality, cosmopolitanism and peace.

"Cosmopolitanism is the future of Indonesian and Korean youth. It started earlier, but it's growing faster in Indonesia and Korea," he noted.

"The benefit is that in Indonesia and Korea, there is already a link established, particularly in terms of the Korean wave. People will have no boundaries, nations without borders, and then, of course, we will be of a friendlier nature to each other."

Mahfud is an Indonesian politician and lawyer who emerged as one of the key figures in Indonesian politics after he was appointed minister of defense in 2000. He has also served as the minister of justice and human rights.