The Korea Herald


Leaders of S. Korea, Indonesia agree to deepen economic, defense cooperation

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Sept. 8, 2023 - 16:51

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (fourth from left) holds expanded summit talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo (second from right) at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday. (Yonhap) South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (fourth from left) holds expanded summit talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo (second from right) at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday. (Yonhap)

The leaders of South Korea and Indonesia on Friday agreed to enhance bilateral economic and defense cooperation across a broad spectrum of areas, which includes collaborative efforts in developing an electric vehicle ecosystem and a fighter jet.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Indonesian President Joko Widodo convened for an in-person summit at the presidential palace in Jakarta on the final day of President Yoon's four-day visit to Indonesia.

"Both discussed forward-looking and substantial cooperation initiatives intended to shape the future for the next 50 years," the South Korean presidential office said in a written statement, issued following the third bilateral summit between Yoon and Widodo this year.

Yoon and Widodo concurred on the need to "further strengthen economic cooperation, which forms the bedrock of developing bilateral relations."

Both leaders lauded the growing collaboration between South Korea and Indonesia, particularly in the fields of electric vehicles, batteries and smart cities, acknowledging their joint efforts in forging future growth prospects.

Furthermore, they pledged to proactively boost trade and investment across diverse sectors, leveraging the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, or CEPA, which took effect earlier this year, between the two countries.

Moreover, both leaders expressed their appreciation for the signing of memoranda of understanding encompassing various sectors, such as electric vehicle ecosystems and halal food. For instance, the memorandum on cooperation in halal food is poised to establish a strong foundation for expanding South Korean food exports to Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.

Additionally, the two leaders concurred on close collaboration to facilitate the participation of numerous South Korean companies in Widodo's project of relocating the capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan by 2045, with a substantial budget of some $32 billion.

The project is expected to foster enhanced bilateral cooperation in infrastructure development including the construction of carbon-neutral water treatment facilities, water supply systems, sewage infrastructure and tunnels.

Yoon and Widodo also agreed on the importance of "enhancing defense and arms industry cooperation to deepen their 'special strategic partnership.'"

Indonesia not only serves as the first export destination for South Korean fighter aircraft such as the KT-1 and T-50, but also stands as the exclusive recipient of South Korean submarine exports. Additionally, it holds the notable distinction of being the primary defense export partner within the Association of Southeast Nations region.

Both leaders placed particular emphasis on the necessity of close collaboration to successfully conclude the joint development project of the KF-21 fighter jet.

The KF-21 project entails collaborative research and development of a 4.5-generation fighter jet by both South Korea and Indonesia. There has been past controversy regarding unpaid contributions from the Indonesian side associated with this project. The development of these 4.5-generation fighter jets carries a price tag of 8.8 trillion won, with Indonesia's contribution amounting to 20 percent of the total cost.

Yoon's visit to Indonesia was primarily aimed at participating in the annual ASEAN summit. During the summit and various meetings on the sidelines, he openly expressed his opposition to the potential arms trade between North Korea and Russia. He also urged China and Russia, who hold veto power on the United Nations Security Council, to actively engage in collaborative efforts aimed at addressing the escalating missile and nuclear threats emanating from North Korea.

In addition to its diplomatic objectives, the visit also held significance as a commemorative event marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Indonesia.

After the summit in Indonesia, Yoon departed for New Delhi to participate in a Group of 20 summit. Among the leaders at the G-20 summit are those from the United States and Japan. Yoon is anticipated to pursue value-oriented diplomacy at the summit, aimed at bolstering unity with like-minded countries.

Yoon is also scheduled to hold a bilateral summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with discussions centered around strategies to enhance economic and security relations.