The Korea Herald


[Dr. Joannes Ekaprasetya Tandjung] Let creativity be core of Indonesia-Korea relations

By Korea Herald

Published : Jan. 16, 2024 - 05:30

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“If there is one thing that unites us, it is our never-ending creativity. The world salutes the power of individuals to remain creative, to put forward our most thought-provoking ideas and turn those ideas into real events and sellable products,” Gandi Sulistiyanto, Indonesia’s ambassador to South Korea, said at the opening of the Korea-Indonesia Cooperation Forum in Jakarta on Nov. 30 last year.

Launched by The Korea Herald CEO Choi Jin-young, the Korea-Indonesia Cooperation Forum was convened to mark the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations, under the theme of "I-Wave and K-Wave, Together for the Future.”

Over the past five decades, the two countries have enhanced their economic and business partnership. The trade volume has surged from $185 million in 1973 to $26 billion in 2022.

President Joko Widodo inaugurated Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Indonesia in Cikarang in March 2022, as the largest Hyundai factory to be built in the region. The establishment of the factory is in line with the Indonesian government’s ecosystem of electric vehicle creation.

Yet, is there a target for creating an ecosystem in the creative industries?

Since the turn of the 21st century, South Korean pop culture has grown in prominence to become a major export driver in entertainment, music, TV and cinema, strengthening its soft power and cultural diplomacy in addition to economic gains.

On Netflix, a string of original Korean-produced content such as “Squid Game” and the recently premiered “Gyeongseong Creature” have become huge hits.

In a recent poll targeted at Generation Z in US and Europe, Park Seo-jun and Han So-hee, the stars of "Gyeongseong Creature," are better known to them than Taylor Swift and Joe Jonas.

On Jan. 5, South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced that the Korean content industry's revenue hit an all-time high at 150 trillion won ($114 billion) in 2022, up 9.4 percent from 137.5 trillion won in 2021.

This growth rate far outpaced the country's overall industry growth of 3.3 percent, the ministry said, citing figures from Statistics Korea.

The content industry's exports reached $13.24 billion in 2023, a 6.3 percent rise from the previous year's $12.45 billion, according to a 2022 study on the cultural content industry conducted by the Culture Ministry.

The content industry in South Korea encompasses 11 different sectors, including publishing, music, games, broadcasting, film and animation, that create and deliver copyrighted works to the public. In Indonesia, the creative economy comprises 17 subsectors, including fashion, film, culinary, crafts, animation and the performing arts.

As early as 2015, within a year of taking office, President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo declared that the creative economy had to serve as the backbone of the Indonesian economic environment. A memorandum of understanding on the creative economy was signed during President Widodo’s visit to Korea in 2018.

In early January 2022, as he began his tenure in Seoul, Sulistiyanto, a self-taught business leader turned ambassador, initiated a division focusing on developing the creative and digital economies, startups and public diplomacy. While trade and investment are important, creative and digital industries are equally essential and therefore must be pursued further.

The division has thrived ever since.

To name a few achievements, the signing of the Tourism and Creative Economy Memorandum of Understanding between the province of North Sulawesi and Jeju Air in 2022 led to the first Jeju Air flight to Sam Ratulangi airport in Manado on May 24, 2023, a collaboration between BINhouse and Jinju Silk Foundation to create Hanbok Batik, or Hantik, the appointment of Dita Karang and the launch of the Ioniq 5 electric vehicle with Indonesian Batik in GIIAS 2023.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, in her video message to mark the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations in 2023, said, “Today, Indonesia and Korea are more than just close friends. We are special strategic partners. This half century celebration is our momentum to further strengthen our partnership.”

In line with Marsudi’s words, let us seize this momentum.

Arts and culture should not be seen merely as decorative parts of diplomacy. The creative economy should not be placed on the sidelines any longer in Indonesia-Korea bilateral relations.

Creativity should be placed at center stage, as Indonesia and Korea are now embarking on their journey beyond 50 years and toward 100 years of diplomatic relations. In 2045, both countries will celebrate the centenary of their nations’ independence.

The I-Wave and K-Wave Forum therefore should not be a one-time-only forum -- or a one-hit wonder, in the language of the music industry.

The forum should be a sound reminder to each of us that the wheels of the creative economy cannot and must not be stopped. The wheels will move forward whether countries or communities are ready or not.

Therefore, the greater goal of cooperation between Korea and Indonesia should enable younger generations in Indonesia to enroll in excellent universities and receive world-class education in all fields, including arts and cultural studies.

At the end of the day, the target should not only be about the ecosystem of electric vehicles, regardless of the significant investment. If the ultimate goal is to enhance quality of life, then Indonesians and Koreans should work hand-in-hand to create an ecosystem of the creative and digital industry, from upstream to downstream, where education also plays a central role.

Dr. Joannes Ekaprasetya Tandjung

Dr. Joannes Ekaprasetya Tandjung is a career diplomat with more than two decades of service in Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since January 2022 he has served as minister counselor on the creative and digital economy, startup acceleration and public diplomacy at the Indonesian Embassy in Seoul. -- Ed.