Participants representing Indonesia at the Seoul Gift Show held in Seoul, South Korea, between Sept. 20 and Sept. 23, said that the Korean market held potential given the market’s affinity for handmade products.
The Indonesian participants showcased their products at the ASEAN Pavilion, a dedicated section where representatives of other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore set up booths.
A total of 20 ASEAN handicraft companies featured their products, including home decor and fashion accessories, at the pavilion with the full support of the ASEAN-Korea Center, an intergovernmental organization working to expand trade between ASEAN countries and the Republic of Korea.
According to the center’s data, ASEAN is Korea’s second-largest trade and investment partner. Trade volume between the region and country doubled in five years, reaching US$125 billion in 2011.
Yosephine E Onie, who runs the Onie Craft handicraft shop selling silver and paper goods, said that Koreans, in addition to the Japanese and Singaporeans, were among the main Asian customers at her shop in Jakarta.
“So now, instead of them approaching us, it’s us approaching them,” she said.
She added that although this was her first time to participate in a trade show in Korea, she aimed to generate sales “around the Rp 100 million mark”.
“We’ve brought around 200 items of [paper] handicrafts and [silver] souvenirs, weighing a total of around 30 kilograms all together,” she said, adding that prices of her goods started at US$10.
However, the overall aim of participating in the exhibition was forming new contacts with potential buyers in Korea, she said.
“We generally do not perform transactions then and there, so we will be doing a lot of follow-up,” she added.
Similarly, another Indonesian participant at the event, Astry of Kimi Accessories, said that making headway in the Korean market was her main focus.
“We’ve exported our goods to European countries, with Germany and the Netherlands acting as our main markets. Now, I’d like to see my chances of exporting to Korea,” she told The Jakarta Post.
She added that she hoped to sell 1,000 items, consisting of batik printed scarves, key chains and various other accessories priced around $5, to bulk buyers in Korea.
Yet, she added that her move to enter the Korean market was not because her European buyers had declined purchasing power from the current financial crisis.
“We haven’t been hugely impacted by the crisis because our items do not carry high prices, and so, our foreign buyers can keep up their purchases,” she said.
Dewi Agustina Tobing, minister counselor at the Indonesian Embassy in South Korea, said that the exhibition was a good chance for small and medium industries to expand their markets.
Yet, she said that wooden furniture still formed the bulk of exports under the arts and craft category.
“Meanwhile, natural resources remain the chief exports from Indonesia to Korea,” she further added.
Bilateral trade between Indonesia and Korea remain strong, expanding 43.48 percent to $29.39 billion in 2011 compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, the export of manufactured goods from Indonesia grew 15 percent over the last four years.
She then said that when it came to non-commodity exports, Indonesia still mainly focused on “traditional cultural goods”, such as handicrafts, unlike the Koreans who have managed to export “modern” cultural products in the form of music and film.
“This is where our challenge lies — in promoting our popular culture that the young can adopt,” she added.