Meet C.K. Song, the Head of Korean Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia

Having lived in Jakarta for 27 years and served as the Head of Korean Chamber of Commerce (KorCham) Indonesia for 24 years, C.K. Song’s long journey with the KorCham makes him an expert when it comes to the ins and outs of business culture in Indonesia. NOW! Jakarta recently sat down with the friendly businessman who shared with us the activities of KorCham and the dynamics of Korean business in Indonesia.


Please tell me about the establishment of The Korean Chamber of Commerce in indonesia ?
Korean Chamber (KorCham) represents the entire South Korean business community in Indonesia. We have regular members who pay for the annual fee, but our service is not limited to them only as we also take care of unofficial members. Most of the Korean companies here come to us anytime they have issues, be it problems with government, regulations and so on. We are a solid community which aims to help and support each member.

What makes KoCham different from other foreign chambers?
I think KoCham is the most organized chamber in Indonesia as we have a comprehensive organizational structure; we have one president, 35 vice presidents and 20 secretarial boards; each heads a different sector such as legal sector, customs sector, taxation sector and so forth. We do weekly meetings every Saturday with the members to update with new information so everyone understands what is going on in the business.

What do you think is the difference between Korean and Indonesian business culture and how do you incorporate these two cultures?
Korean business culture is very straightforward and very speedy while Indonesian is more relaxed, which I think makes a great combination. Besides that, Indonesia and Korea complement each other with their strengths: Indonesia is blessed with lots of natural resources while Korea is strong in human capital. What we bring to Indonesia is technology, skill and creativity, and when they meet Indonesia’s rich resources, we can create a real  synergy effect which benefits both countries.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for Korean companies in Indonesia?
The Indonesian Government keeps changing from time to time but I don’t think we have many problems here. Korea and Indonesia have many similarities, for example we have similar language culture. Koreans can learn to speak Bahasa Indonesia faster than any other nationalities. Most Koreans who live in Indonesia more than a year can speak good Bahasa Indonesia while many other expats take longer to understand the language. I think this is one of our core strengths as communication plays an essential role in business. We also have resemblance in history that makes us feel closer to each other and easy to bond.

So you are confident with the business partnership between the two countries in the future?
Yes, especially because I see many improvements happening in this current government. Today’s government is giving “one stop service” for us as we can manage all the administration needed in one place; it is very professional and more efficient. Previously, all matters regarding licensing and administration could be very difficult due to long bureaucratic processes but now everything is more transparent and fast.

In addition, labour wage increases used to be a big issue for us. Every year, thousands of workers took to the streets to demand salary increases which often led to riots and turmoil. But since last year, the wage increase regulations started to follow the right policy set by the government.

President Jokowi and Minister of Manpower Hanif Dhakiri work very closely with the labour unions and businessmen to ensure each party complies with the applicable regulations. The result is seen from the reduced number of worker demonstration since last year. This is a big improvement from government that we really appreciate.  And I believe it is not only good for us but also for the country as there are two important things in doing business; security and sustainability. A country’s stable political and economic condition will attract more foreign investors which will improve the country’s economy.

What goals does the Korean Chamber of Commers have for this upcoming year?
We aim to continue to strengthen the communication and relationship between Korean companies and Indonesian government. As the bridge of communication, we help Korean business investors to understand clearly about government policy and regulations that will affect their business here in Indonesia.

Since you’ve been living in Indonesia for so long, what do you like the most about Indonesian people?
I love Indonesia, see it’s even written on my wall (Mr.Song has a big poster inside his office that says ‘Selalu Cinta’ meaning always love). I have many Indonesian friends and workers; they are always happy, smiley, kind, humble and loyal. My schedule is usually always packed, but when I have time I like to invite my friends to hang out at my home and play music together at my home studio. Indonesians are very easygoing and fun, I think that’s one of the reasons why I love this country so much.