Editorial: Seoul-Jakarta ties can enhance supply chain, national security

2023.05.18 12:24:01 | 2023.05.18 12:31:17

The Maekyung Indonesia Forum held in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 16. [Photo by Lee Chung-woo]이미지 확대

The Maekyung Indonesia Forum held in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 16. [Photo by Lee Chung-woo]



The Maekyung Indonesia Forum, organized by the Maeil Business Newspaper, took place in Jakarta earlier this week and the two-day conference served as a stepping stone in the bilateral relationship between Korea and Indonesia. Most notably, the forum hosted some in-depth discussions on bilateral cooperation concerning key minerals and synergies it could bring. They are believed to be some of the achievements of the forum, amid growing U.S.-China power struggle and the subsequent supply chain re-arrangements, all of which raise concerns about the potential weaponization of natural resources. Indonesian Minister of Investment Bahlil Lahadalia’s comments must have come in this context when he said during his keynote speech that Korea’s technologies and Indonesia‘s natural resources, together, could empower the two nations to win a leading position in the global electric vehicle competition against the U.S. or Europe.

Indonesia is a mineral reserve powerhouse. It is the world’s No. 1 source of nickel, a key material in batteries, and has abundant reserves of other minerals, such as tin, aluminum, copper, silicon, rubber and bauxite. Taking advantage of its rich reserves, the Southeast Asian country is trying to foster related industries, but is facing challenges in term of technology and capital. On the other hand, Korea lacks natural resources but has some of the most advanced technologies, from mineral processing technology all the way to manufacturing technology needed to put together electric vehicles, as well as its affluent vaults of capital. The strengths and weaknesses of the two Asian nations perfectly offset each other, making the two optimal partners. The fact that many large Korean corporations, such as POSCO Group, Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution Ltd., already have a strong footing in Indonesia is ample evidence of the plentiful business opportunities that exist between the two countries.

Korea imports from China most of the key minerals it needs to make its high-tech goods, such as chips and EV batteries, with some of the minerals being 100 percent dependent on China. If China decides to weaponize its resources, it could place not only the economy but also our national security at risk. Lower mineral-dependence on China and a diversification of sources is an urgent task for Korea.

The bilateral cooperation on key minerals on the agenda for the Korea-Canada summit that took place in Seoul on Wednesday could be also seen as a step toward China-risk management. Cooperation with Indonesia is significant for Korea to reduce our dependence on China for key minerals. Indonesia is seeking investors from Korea to create a new EV ecosystem there, and this may be a timely opportunity for the Korean side to prepare for any potential supply chain crisis.

By Editorial Team

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