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March 8, 2009

Indonesia, Korea to strengthen trade ties
South Korea and Indonesia have agreed to strengthen cooperation in energy, trade, defense and the environment, as well as bolster economic support during the ongoing financial crisis, reported the Jakarta Post.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, meeting in Jakarta on Friday, witnessed the signing of memorandums of understandings (MoU) in the areas of education, science and technology and the forestry sectors.

They also oversaw the signing of a letter of intent (LoI) in the defense sector between Cabinet ministers from the two countries.

Through the signing of the declarations, the two nations agree to develop the wood biomass energy industry and kick-off a mutual fighter jet project.

“The bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and South Korea has been developing steadily since the two countries signed the strategic partnership declaration [in 2006],” Yudhoyono said.

“For example, in the economic sector, [bilateral] trade and investment has improved significantly. The trade value reached US$20 billion in 2008, almost double that in 2007,” he said.

Yudhoyono said Indonesia and South Korea would thrive to preserve and boost their economic interaction despite both being affected by the global crisis.

Lee, meanwhile, said Indonesia and South Korea were “best friends” that would continue to help each other despite financial hardship.

South Korea is Indonesia's fourth largest trading partner, with Jakarta being Seoul's ninth largest.

Yudhoyono also used the opportunity to ask Lee to help protect over 20,000 Indonesian workers in South Korea from the impact of the global crisis if they lose their jobs. He requested that perhaps they be allowed to stay in the country for an extended period to seek further employment.

He said there were about 1,300 South Korean companies in Indonesia, which employed around 1.5 million people, and that the Indonesian government would seek solutions to ensure the survival of the firms and prevent mass layoffs.

According to the South Korean government, South Korean investors poured more than $300 million into various projects in 2008.

Lee, in response, said he would not discriminate foreign and domestic workers in South Korea, and added that as soon as he returned to his country, he would seek a way to assist the Indonesian workers.

Yudhoyono said the two countries re-evaluated their relations in the oil and gas industry, signing new business-to-business work contracts which are “fairer” and “more beneficial” to both countries.

He also said the two leaders also discussed possible future cooperations in the fields of information and communication technologies, alternative energy, corruption eradication, tourism and the defense, forestry and labor sectors.            

At a regional level, Indonesia and South Korea have agreed to strengthen the Asean+3 cooperation and the Chiang Mai Initiative to produce “concrete measures” to tackle economic problems in Asia.

The leaders also agreed to play more active roles in the upcoming G20 meeting in London in April and at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

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