Defeating the pandemic together

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Defeating the pandemic together

Eje Kim
The author, an Asean specialist, is a professor of geography at the National University of Education in Korea.


Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo becomes the rising star during the Asean-Korea Commemorative Summit 2019 in Busan. He grabbed the attention by greeting President Moon Jae-in friendly. “I would like to appreciate the warm welcome extended by my honorable hyungnim [older brother],” he said. When the two presidents called each other kakakku (my brother), it signaled the start of a new brotherhood relationship between Indonesia and Korea.

Korea and Indonesia already share many aspects of history, culture and economy. Now that the two countries commemorated their 75th year of Independence Day — Korea on Aug. 15 and Indonesia on Aug. 17 — it is time for both countries to strengthen brotherhood and defeat this pandemic together.

Covid-19 has killed more than 6,000 Indonesians. Though the Indonesian government is ferociously fighting against the pandemic, it is incredibly difficult to offer an effective solution to the big country, which consists of more than 17,000 islands. Indonesia’s lack of medical equipment, staff and facilities is challenging to deal with the pandemic. In an ongoing struggle against Covid-19, all countries in the world realize that we are in this for a long haul.

We should move forward by sharing the burden and welcoming a new opportunity in the wake of the pandemic, including a seemingly inevitable economic crisis and the need to rebuild the global public health regime.

Since the beginning of the surge in Covid-19 outbreaks in Indonesia, both countries have worked together to ensure the safety of their citizens. President Moon has conveyed support for Indonesia’s battle against the Covid-19 outbreak. He pledged to donate medical equipment, protective gear and test kits to Jakarta quoting the Indonesian proverb “ringan sama dijinjing, berat sama dipikul” (trouble shared is a trouble halved).

The government of Indonesia learns how Korea uses IT to conduct testing, tracing and treatment. Collaborations such as joint research and development in medical kits and medicine can highlight the economic potentials in both nations. Good news is coming from the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Korean firm Genexine is teaming up with Indonesia’s PT Kalbe Farma to develop a coronavirus vaccine. More cooperation between Jakarta and Seoul can foster the international supply chain of medical equipment and medicines in the future.

Indonesia valued the spirit of helping others, known as “Gotong Royong.” Koreans can earn genuine respect from Indonesians by practicing “Gotong-Royong” to strengthen digital cooperation in both countries when the pandemic has further spurred the necessity of the digitalization of the Indonesian society.

Indonesia’s digital economy is thriving with Gojek as decacorn start-up and many unicorn start-ups such as Tokopedia, Traveloka, Bukalapak and OVO.

Start-up companies lead the social change and technological innovation to overcome the pandemic. Traveloka has partnered with three health service providers to bring a Covid-19 test scheduling service to its platform. The feature allows users to book a time slot to be tested. Gojek launched its Covid-19 Info Center to provide information related to the disease. Partnered with Halodoc, Gojek launched a free online medical consultation service for Indonesians who are showing Covid-19 symptoms.

Bukalapak and GrabKios also teamed up to help nearly 5 million of Bukalapak’s kiosk partners to sell a variety of digital products. OVO, Tokopedia, and Grab Indonesia donated 1 billion rupiah ($60,300) each to provide personal protection equipment for medical personnel who are treating patients suffering from Covid-19. This generous contribution of the start-up companies shows the potential for growth in the country’s digital industry.

Korea can play an important role in the digital revolution and gain the opportunity to actively engage in the start-up waves. Lack of IT infrastructure in rural areas, a shortage of high-skilled workforces and challenges on digital literacy have taken roots in many parts of Indonesia. This is where digital cooperation between the two countries can take a step forward.

Indonesia is the largest economy in Asean. As key partners of the New Southern Policy initiated by President Moon, Korea and Indonesia have been continuously improved bilateral relationship and their relationship was elevated to a special strategic partnership in 2017.

In the spirit of togetherness on fighting Covid-19, both countries must strengthen the cooperation and build a partnership for sustainable growth.
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