|From left, Shavira Amelia Johan, Agnes Michelle Liu, Zahid Ibrahim and Matahari Sukmadjati, the members of an Indonesian special team participating in the KB Solveathon, pose in this 2022 photo. Courtesy of KB Financial Group|
By Lee Yeon-woo
"Team Garuda, semangat (good luck)!" Four Indonesian college students shouted enthusiastically when they landed in Korea in November 2022 to participate in a debate competition hosted by KB Financial Group.
Named KB Solveathon, the event pitted 64 college students ― 60 Koreans and the four Indonesians ― in competition against each other to come up with a potential strategy for KB Financial Group within 42.195 hours, just like running a marathon.
Agnes Michelle Liu, Matahari Sukmadjati, Shavira Amelia Johan and Zahid Ibrahim participated in the event as an Indonesian special team and offered in-house opinions related to the country's financial market to the group, which has been trying to enter the Indonesian market.
"How can a bank from an East Asian country come to Indonesia and address the issues that we've always had ― even with Indonesian banks? I think when a bank is able to answer that question, then the financial opportunities will be massive (in Indonesia)," Ibrahim, an Indonesian college student majoring in economics in Japan, said in a recent video interview with The Korea Times.
The participant also addressed that the country's Muslim-majority population requires special consideration: Islamic finance.
"When it comes to interest, if I borrow 5,000, I can only return 5,000. In conventional banks, if you borrow 5,000 you have to return a certain percentage of the interest with the original amount. But in Islamic finance, it's not allowed. There are many other rules like this. And sometimes we also feel that we don't have enough time to look into them," Ibrahim said, highlighting that it's important for Korean banks to work with experts who have researched this principle intensively.
"What we know in practice is that KB is doing a lot to bring up its business in Indonesia. And one of them is KB Bukopin Sharia. We wanted to make KB appeal to Indonesians as a bank that can be trusted (by making proposals)," Ibrahim said.
Their journey of debating, sharing financial insights and building friendships was also recently released in a documentary series on YouTube.
|Students participate in the KB Solveathon event in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, in November 2022. Courtesy of KB Financial Group|
"I have to skip some parts of the documentary. When I did it I felt confident, but when I watched it again I was like 'oh my God.' But it was really interesting to see how the other teams are working, and the staff, especially, how they are managing everything on track. Now I have a deeper appreciation for the event," Ibrahim said.
Although they found it rewarding to complete the program, they said they faced several struggles due to cultural differences.
"Our biggest problem was the language barrier. Additionally, we were surprised to see that Korean students study very hard all day and night, whereas, in Indonesia, we have a different culture where we sleep early and wake up early due to prayer time," said Sukmadjati, a college student majoring in Korean language education in Bandung, Indonesia.
"Despite the challenges, it was a pleasure to showcase various aspects of Indonesian culture. While Bali is the most popular tourist destination in our country, Indonesia has many other beautiful and proud cultures beyond the island," Sukmadjati added, saying she recommends other Indonesian students to participate in the event too.
KB Financial has announced that it will host another Solveathon event in July. "This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, so we are planning to invite more Indonesian students to participate," an official from KB Financial said concerning the upcoming event.