Indonesian SMEs Can Resort to Riding the Korean Wave for Own Benefits

Diana Mariska
K-pop group BTS. (Photo: Jung Yeon-je / AFP)
K-pop group BTS. (Photo: Jung Yeon-je / AFP) - The Korean wave, or hallyu, has been “attacking” the world for some time now—from home turf to Hollywood, everyone loves Korean pop culture: the movies, the music, the makeup trends. The impact of this phenomenon is so massive that experts predict hallyu will continue to gain momentum in, at least, the next few years.

During an Indonesian Next Generation Journalist Network on Korea workshop initiated by the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) and Korea Foundation, Professor of International Studies at Korea University Andrew Kim explained that hallyu has brought immense, rapid, and multidimensional advantages to South Korea, particularly economy-wise.

“The success of hallyu enabled Korean entrepreneurs to make high-quality, attractive, ‘sophisticated and stylish’ cultural products [and enabled them] to utilize highly efficient marketing strategies,” Kim said.

This argument was also supported by Ratih Indraswari, a core member of Council of ASEAN Professors in Korea. According to her, K-pop has successfully gained popularity among Indonesian youths—driven by the rise of social media, and this obsession inevitably creates a “lucrative potential”. In a survey, Indonesia is in the top five countries whose respondents show intention to spend on hallyu content in the future.

Hallyu's consumer goods export to Indonesia is highly concentrated within the manufacturing industries, such as food and beverages, textile and apparel, automotive, electronics, and chemical,” Indraswari explained.

Hallyu serves as the bridge linking South Korea’s image and consumer goods, and South Korea’s strong brand equity influences Indonesia’s consumer behavior,” she added.

Furthermore, as digital economy (including e-commerce) continues to solidify its position as one of the backbones of both Indonesia’s and South Korea’s economy, hallyu is then considered to possess the ability to attract Indonesian consumers towards small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) products.

Among some of the examples is the ongoing trend of Korean celebrities (e.g. BTS and Blackpink) becoming the brand ambassadors of Indonesian e-commerce companies. Additionally, Korean products have also been victorious as of late within the online platforms as the “Korean brand equity” flourishes.

Now, aiming to break free from the “mere consumer” trap, Indonesia is eyeing the potential to ride the Korean wave and create similar lucrative opportunity for its SMEs and local products.

“Everything is good from the South-Korea-to-Indonesia side, but is it reciprocal? What about the possibility of Indonesian SMEs and creative economy to enter the Korean e-commerce?” Indraswari asked.

One of the answers to that, she said, is through the formation of a special desk within the office structure of the Indonesian Embassy in Seoul.

“The Creative Economy and Public Diplomacy Desk shows Indonesia's commitment to tap the commercial benefit of Indonesia's cultural creative products through e-commerce platform and pushes Indonesia’s SMEs and creative products to go global,” she said.

Batik, in particular, appears to be the preferred commodity to introduce to the Korean market during this initial stage. For example, a number of batik products from Indonesia is now available to buy from idus, which is one of the biggest and most popular online platforms to purchase handmade goods. “Hanbok and Batik” fashion shows were also organized in both countries to fuse two cultures—and it also served as a symbol of a strong bilateral friendship.

Local authorities and agencies are also encouraged to take part in promoting their products through a number of initiatives. While serving as the mayor of Bandung, the now-governor of West Java Ridwan Kamil kick-started a project called “Little Bandung” in Seoul in which organizers sent local products to Korea to be marketed there.

However, despite the grand idea, the project was then halted because there were “many issues”.

“Initiative is good, but management is also important because, when we talk about commerce, we talk about business. This is the difference between companies and government entities: we need to have sustainability, people who take care of the business, and we need to have good business plan in the future,” Indraswari noted.

All in all, she concluded that there are works to do if Indonesia is truly keen on riding the Korean wave.

“E-commerce continues to be a potential alternative entry that will be beneficial for both countries. What can we do to support SMEs, startups, and the creative industry?” the expert asked.

She added, “As the nature of the digital economy is disruptive, upskilling the digital literacy of labor forces in utilizing digital services is crucial for Indonesia Have we geared in preparing this?”

Even if hard works are waiting ahead, Indraswari emphasized that Indonesia must immediately make the baby steps and strike while the iron is still hot.

“Every small step matters because at the time being, [the situation] is very interesting,” she concluded.

Tag # fpci # korea foundation # kpop # korean wave # hallyu # korean wave in indonesia # south korea # indonesia south korea relations

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