Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Indonesians See Role Model in Busan Asiad

Interview dengan Korea Times October 14, 2002


South Korea held a strong second place in the 16-day Busan Asian Games which ended on Monday (Oct. 14), and is regarded as a role model for its Asian neighbors, not only in sports but also in economics, according to Indonesian students living here.

“Most Koreans are workaholics, and students study very hard. Maybe Indonesia needs to develop such a do-or-die spirit,” said Qodarian Pramukanto, 40, who studies landscape architecture at Seoul National University.

As the only Asian country with a membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Indonesia struggles to secure economic and social stability. Unfortunately, Saturday’s suspected terrorist bombing incident at a nightclub on Indonesia’s resort island, Bali, might further disturb Indonesia’s economic condition by disrupting its largest source of income, tourism.

Indonesia attracts more than 90,000 South Korean tourists a year -- mostly to Bali, and more than 54,000 have already visited in the first half of this year, according to the Korea National Tourism Organization.

Referring to the government’s policy to deport undocumented workers by next March, Mukhtasar Syamsudin, who is also studying at Seoul National University, estimates there are at least 15,000 undocumented migrant workers from Indonesia here, but said merely sending them back will greatly hurt the country’s economic productivity.

“Sending migrant workers back to their countries will not solve either Korea’s or their problem,” said Syamsudin, 34, who is also head of an Indonesian students’ organization in Korea.

Indonesia, with more than 228 million people, is the world’s most populous Muslim nation with vast natural resources, but some 80 million are said to be living below the poverty line.

“Indonesia is in great pain in economic and political terms. Sending these illegal workers back to Indonesia will add to its hardship,” Reni Saraswati, 26, a student at Korea University, said. Saraswati emphasized the importance of Korea’s leadership in the Asia region.

Indonesia, which maintains a friendly relationship with South Korea, possesses a vast land of 1.9 million square kilometers. However, Saraswati thinks that such vast land was one of Indonesia’s difficulties in preparing for the Asian Games, because the land comes in the form of 18,000 islands. Indonesia ranked 14th in the Busan Asian Games, with four golds. Two weeks ago, President Megawati Sukarnoputri said she wanted Indonesian delegation will grab 15 golds from the Busan Asiad.

“When Indonesia becomes a better and more stabilized country, then we may pay more attention to the Asian Games,” said Kristianus Piatu, 34, enrolled at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute. Piatu, who was a sociology teacher at an East Timor middle school, now plans to become a Catholic priest here to help Koreans as well as Indonesian workers.

“This year’s World Cup and Asian Games showed the world that even a single sport can bridge differences between countries. By letting troubled countries such as East Timor to participate in the Games, Korea demonstrated a globalized friendship,” Piatu said.

Although most Indonesian students share friendly feelings toward their host country, they second the opinion of other foreign students who demand that the country become more open.

Saraswati said, “As a Muslim, I am forbidden to eat pork, ham and alcohol. But when I go to a store to buy some snacks, the container doesn’t have ingredients in English. If Korea wants to become the hub of Asia and pride of Asia, it needs to adapt to international standards,”

“It is hard to make friends with Koreans especially when you don’t drink,” she added


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