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Koreans in Indonesia: Based on a True Story March 24, 2017

Posted by Sharehouse Jakarta in Uncategorized.

For over 500 years between the early 1400’s and the mid 1900’s, Indonesia and Korea fell out of contact.

 See, in 1406 the Majapahit Empire sent an envoy to the brand-new Kingdom of Chosŏn. But it got attached by pirates near Gunsan, in Chŏlla Province. It was loaded with ostriches, peacocks, parrots, pepper, medicine, sandalwood and textiles – and there were 120 men and women on board.

About 40 of them made it shore, but the pirates had taken all their clothes. 

Immediately, King T’aejong placed an order for food, clothing and a smaller, faster ship to get them back to Java — true story.

“Terima kasih,” said ambassador Chen Yanxiang, promising to return the next year. Perhaps he got busy — we don’t know — but the gifts he sent as a token of gratitude for the prior hospitality did eventually arrive.

So it’s 2017;  there are 35,000 South Koreans in Jakarta; and Korean food, clothing, and small-but-fast transportation is once again very popular in Java. What just happened?

Mostly war. And pirates. But another big milestone was when the Jakarta International Korean School opened its doors in East Jakarta in 1975. Today it’s a very large school.

Then, in 1982, Kim Woo-jae began selling kimchi and doenjang (about 10 minutes from where I live) in Kebayoran Baru. With a reliable supply of kimchi, imagine the progress made.

And the rest is history: The “Miracle on the Han River,” in the 1980s, was no joke: Korea stopped being a poor nation and starting being a rich one almost overnight.  In the early 90’s, Jeewon and LG came to Indonesia, followed by Samsung and many others. Some of the relevant sectors are electronics, manufacturing, automotive, steel and petrochemicals.

So today South Korea is the third largest foreign investor in Indonesia; Korean firms employ over  900,000 Indonesians; and “Lotte” is basically Indonesian for grocery store.

Of course, both Indonesia and Korea took a hit during the Asian financial crisis. I visited Korea twice that year and noticed not everyone on the train was whistling. Obviously things could have been better.

Mr. Kim’s Mu Gung Hwa grocery is now a”Koreatown” landmark, but Koreans live all over Jakarta (Cibubur, Kelapa Gading) and Greater Jakarta (Cikarang and Lippo Karawaci). Also, you don’t need to go anywhere to experience Korean culture, since Korean media and creative products will come to you. Indonesians know all about it, because the K-wave  hit Asia before it reached the West.

Meanwhile, Koreans don’t hesitate to learn Indonesian, enroll in Indonesian universities, start families or businesses in Indonesia, or become Indonesian citizens. That’s unique, if you stop to think about it.

If you check Twitter to see who’s practicing their Indonesian — usually Koreans. If you go to the University of Indonesia, you’ll see Korean students. If the hotel lobby is full of ecstatic teens and young adults, something Korean is going on.

There must be a fit.

SOURCE:  Koreans in Indonesia





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