Charge d’Affaires Ahmad Fahmi Ahmad Sarkawi of the Republic of Malaysia in Seoul said, “The 31st day of August is the official National Day of Malaysia and it marks the day when Malaysia became free from British colonial rule.” It is the happy day for the people of Malaysia like the Korean people who enjoys the 15th of August when they won their independence in 1945.
To mark the auspicious occasion, The Korea Post media (publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean news publications since 1985) recently had a special interview with CDA Sarkawi of Malaysia at his office in Seoul. Details of the interview follow:
Question: Please introduce your National Day in full detail.
Answer: The 31st day of August is the official national day of Malaysia. It commemorates the Malayan Declaration of Independence on 31 August 1957, marking the day Malaya is free from British colonial administration
This year's Independence Day is the 6th anniversary. 'Malaysia Prihatin' which literally means Malaysia Cares, is retained as the theme for this year's Independence Day. The theme was chosen in recognition of the caring, determined, and patient nature of Malaysians in facing the current trials and tribulations presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It also describes a Malaysian Government that prioritizes the welfare of its citizens and is together in the fight battling the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The combination of the words 'Malaysia' and 'Prihatin' describes all the people in the country standing together in fighting the pandemic and the concern of the government which had implemented numerous initiatives encompassing economic, welfare, and social aspects to ensure the wellbeing of the people.
The logo for this year's National day, is in the shape of a heart donning the colours of our National flag, the "Jalur Gemilang". It symbolizes the concern and care of the Malaysian government towards its multi-racial society living in the country.
Facing a pandemic is not easy, it needs unity. That is why we firmly believe that only Unity will get us through despite this terrifying pandemic. We are united to push our differences aside and do the right thing regardless of race, religion or creed. That is what Malaysia Prihatin' is based on.
Celebrations on this historic day begin from the beginning of August. The month of August is also known as the National Month. Various programs and national competitions are held to inspire the spirit of patriotism and love for the country. National speech competition, Merdeka poetry contest, National storytelling competition, and photography competition are among the activities carried out throughout the celebration.
There are also neighborhood decorating competitions, where the community is encouraged to fly and decorate their homes and vehicles with Malaysian flags. Flags and decorations are seen all over the country, almost every place and every building will be decorated with Malaysia's flag.
Most Malaysians will gather at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 31st. Dataran Merdeka has been a popular venue for the annual Merdeka Parade. However, due to some restrictions related to Covid-19, the celebration will be held at Dataran Pahlawan Negara, Putrajaya on a smaller scale, while observing the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: Malaysia, a nation located at the heart of Southeast Asia has established itself as one of the most trade-friendly nations in the world, exporting a competitive range of products and services to more than 200 countries and territories around the world. It is today an integral part of the global supply chain and recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the world's top 25th trading nation and 24th largest exporter as well as 26th leading importer in 2020. Malaysia's top trade destinations include ASEAN, China, the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea as well as the European Union.
Year 2020 has been challenging to global trade as a result of the stringent lockdown measures imposed across the board due to COVID-19 pandemic. This directly caused major disruptions to global supply chains, especially movement of goods and services, and severely affected manufacturing activities.
In 2020, ROK remained as Malaysia’s 8th largest global trading partner. Malaysia, on the other hand, was ROK’s 13th largest global trading partner. The total trade between Malaysia and ROK in 2020 increased by 9.2% to RM79.78 billion (USD18.93 billion) compared to RM73.06 billion (USD17.63 billion) in 2019.
Malaysia’s major exports to the ROK in 2020 were in the form of electrical and electronics products (33.1%), liquefied natural gas (22.2%), manufactures of metal (7.6%), chemicals and chemical products (4.7%) and optical and scientific equipment (4.6%).
Malaysia has kept up with the rapidly transforming technologies utilized in the global trade, commerce and financial sectors. Today, it is capable of conducting business efficiently and effectively within the knowledge and digital economy.
With a population of around 32 million people, Malaysia has various capabilities in trade and is exporting high value-added products in various sectors including in technology, electrical and electronic parts, chemicals & chemical products, petrochemicals, optical & scientific equipment medical devices, machinery, equipment & parts, automotive & aerospace components, building materials, renewable energy, processed food, furniture and lifestyle products.
At the same time, Malaysia has been exporting commodities such as oil & gas and palm oil-based products as well as rubber-based products, Central to that transformation is Shared Prosperity Vision 2030-the Government's plan to turbocharge the economy. Therein lies a strategic focus on manufacturing, which accounts for roughly a quarter of annual GDP and 2.2 million jobs. The Government's commitment to helping manufacturers embrace Industry 4.0, bolster their technical know-how and add value promises to propel the economy and deliver significant benefits for businesses.
Q: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
A: Establishing manufacturing operations abroad is challenging. To make that easier, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), an agency under the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry launched the Project Acceleration and Coordination Unit (PACU) to accelerate the approval and implementation of manufacturing projects. In efforts to accelerate the necessary approvals to expedite the execution of projects, MIDA launched the e-Manufacturing License (e-ML) module and the enhanced e-ML 2.0 module.
For instance, eligible applications submitted through this module will be approved within two business days for non- sensitive industries and up to four weeks for sensitive industries.
PACU assists and accelerates the application process, identifies challenges that an applicant may face, monitors the progress of implementation and facilitates collaboration with all parties involved. The process is hassle-free. With generous tax and investment incentives already in place, the latest effort provides a strong impetus to invest.
The Government is also quick to respond when businesses and investors are in need. COVID-19 has made it difficult to travel. To balance public health, livelihoods and economic sustainability, MIDA set up a One Stop Centre (OSC) to ease the movement business travelers. This ensures both the legitimacy and health of travelers before they enter the country, while supporting the growth of business and industry.
Amid the disruption stemming from the pandemic, the Malaysian Government also introduced a series of stimulus packages dubbed PENJANA to help businesses recover and to incentivize foreign investment. The packages include several measures aimed at foreign companies. Those in the manufacturing sector who invest USD70-USD116 million are eligible for tax exemption for ten years. Larger investments could earn a 15-year exemption.
Q: What are your competitive products and/over services attractive to Korea? Who are the companies of your country exporting your products to Korea?
A: Malaysian electrical and electronic companies are leading global players with a significant amount of all electronic exports being contributed by semiconductor devices, integrated circuits (Cs) and transistors and valves. These companies are also capable exporters in their own right and specialize in various areas including electronic manufacturing services, wafer fabrication, IC designs, assembly and many more.
ICT is another important sector for Malaysian exports and include electronic government solutions, electronic commerce solutions, software development and system integration for banking, finance, insurance, healthcare and education among a range of many other services. Other areas of export include the digital content sector, game art production and various aspects of audio-visual production for the film and computer industries.
Exports of machinery currently include specialized process, metalworking, power generation and general industrial machinery among other things. The country is also the largest manufacturer of boilers in Southeast Asia, with the capability to manufacture and supply high-grade and internationally accepted industrial boilers.
Recognized as possessing one of the most developed chemical industries in the world, Malaysia supplies a variety of products including polymers of ethylene, methanol and saturated polyesters.
The country's construction and professional services sector has also established itself as a major global player, having completed a variety of projects abroad including in the construction of buildings and infrastructure, roads and highways, railways and bridges, oil and gas installations, water treatment and power plants, airports and more. This sector has the strong support of the building materials industry, which produces a wide array of quality items for the building and construction industries, as well as the renovation and refurbishing sectors.
The aerospace industry is another area in which Malaysia has been showing tremendous growth potential including in the MRO, machinery and design engineering sectors, and the country is poised to carve a niche for itself in this highly specialized field.
Malaysia's oil and gas industry today among the most dynamic in the region and includes the provision of specialty services such as engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning & installation (EPCCI), fabrication of offshore oil and gas related structures and various other logistics, infrastructure, storage and management requirements.
Food is another sector in which Malaysia excels and the largest export category here is edible products and preparations consisting of sauces, soya-based preparations and extracts and concentrates that are used as food ingredients.
Malaysia has also established itself as a world leader in furniture design and manufacture with over 80% of its output exported to over 160 countries including kitchen and bedroom furniture, upholstered furniture with wooden frame and office furniture.
Other major areas of export include Malaysia's vibrant fashion industry, healthcare including hospital, medical and dental services, and franchising in F&B, car sales, service centers, retail and supermarkets, IT and a wide range of other business opportunities.
The country's export of quality products and services is made possible with the support from the logistics industry, a well-developed and complete chain of service providers that include warehousing, transportation, freight forwarding and other related value-added services such as distribution and supply chain management Malaysia is also considered as the global leader in the halal sector.
For example, among the Muslim-majority countries around the world, Malaysia is a hub for halal manufacturing and the nation is recognized as the pioneer in Islamic finance too. Over the years, Malaysia has built its image in this segment supported by the strong credibility of its halal certification. Malaysia plays a key role in promoting the awareness on halal particularly that halal is not limited to only food and beverages, and covers the areas of services.
In Malaysia, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) spearheads efforts to promote Malaysian Halal products and services around the world. The agency under Ministry of International Trade and Industry organizes Malaysia International Halal Showcase or MIHAS which has grown exponentially over the last 17 years to become the world's largest halal trade fair. MIHAS is an excellent global trading platform for Halal manufacturers, suppliers, buyers, service providers and distributors to network and discuss business opportunities.
As the National Trade Promotion Agency, MATRADE assists Malaysian companies to penetrate the global market by providing market intelligence, organize exporters development programmes and export promotion activities. The challenges brought by the pandemic call for a timely shift for Malaysian companies to tap into the opportunities arising in the new normal.
While Malaysia's robust manufacturing sector boasts several advantages, the "3+2" high-growth segments standout. Three mainstays -electrical and electronics (E8E), machinery and equipment (M&E) and chemicals are longstanding economic pillars, while two other growing segments-medical devices and aerospace-offer huge potential.
E&E is the single largest contributor to the manufacturing sector. Over the past few decades, the segment attracted tremendous foreign investment into the country.
It quickly climbed the value chain, moving from high- volume low-mix to high-mix low-volume operations. Today, it produces 13% of global back-end semiconductor output and accounts for roughly 40% of Malaysia's annual exports. With end uses linked to 5G, autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things (IoT), chips made in Malaysia power products in the world.
Q: What are the Korean products and services that your country might wish to import?
A: Korean companies are encouraged to invest in Malaysia particularly in new growth areas within the emerging technologies, capital intensive, high value added, knowledge based, skills intensive, export oriented, automation and R&D
Given Korea's strengths in high value added and technology intensive industries, we expect more Korean investments in areas such as energy efficient vehicles (EEVs), biotechnology, advanced materials, advanced electronics, pharmaceutical, medical devices, petrochemicals, ICT, E-Commerce, animation, machinery and equipment, food products, agro-based products, and value-added products from natural halal resources.
In tandem with the rise of digital revolution, Malaysia is also embracing Industry 4.0 to raise its competitiveness by encouraging companies to adopt smart manufacturing technologies and processes. As small and medium (SME) companies in Korea accounts for over 90% of the country's robotic firms, there is much that Malaysian SMEs can learn from the Korean SMEs especially in terms of their adaptation to innovation and competitive strategies to become world leaders in advanced technology.
Q: Nowadays, economic cooperation is very important between the countries. Who are the major Korean companies actively engaged in bilateral economic cooperation?
A: As global businesses get back on track, many see Malaysia as an attractive manufacturing hub. Beyond durability, several other factors make it the ideal location, including the ease of doing business, top talent, the depth of its connectedness, tax and investment incentives, and its commitment to innovation. Likewise, its strategic location creates vital opportunities for supply chain diversification amid the ongoing pandemic and lingering U.S.- China trade uncertainty.
The ROK has always been Malaysia's top 10 major investors throughout the years. As of 2020, a total of 387 manufacturing projects with participation from Korea were implemented with total investments of USD8.0 billion.
Lotte Chemical, Samsung, Hanwha Q-Cells, OCI, SK Group, Iljin Materials, Kiswire and Posco are among notable Korean companies that have set their footprints in the country. ROK companies also have a firm foothold in the services sector. Prominent establishments include SK Telekom, Kumho Tyre, Hyundai Rotem, Korea Gas Corporation, Hyundai Corporation and Nexen Tyre Corporation.
Q: Please introduce your Head of Government in detail, including major achievements.
A: The Honourable Dato' Sri Ismail Sabri Bin Yaakob had just been elected as Malaysia's 9th Prime Minister on 21 August 2021. He has been in politics for more than 20 years with his most recent role being part of the PN cabinet under the leadership of Malaysia's 8th Prime Minister, Tan Sri Mahiaddin Md Yasin, during which he first served as a Senior Minister before moving up to the become Deputy Prime Minister.
Born in Temerloh, Pahang on 18 January 1960, Dato' Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob received his early education in the state before continuing his studies in Law at Universiti Malaya.
Before stepping into politics, he used to be a lawyer and held the Director position for the Development Authority of Pahang Tenggara (DARA), the Tourism Promotion Board of Malaysia, and Bukit Jalil National Sports Complex.
His first stint as a Cabinet Minister came in 2008 where he was the Youth and Sports Minister under the premiership of Tun Abdullah Badawi.
He then changed portfolios a few times until 2018 including being the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (2009 - 2013), Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (2013-2015), and Minister of Rural and Regional Development (2015-2018).
He came back into the Cabinet as part of the new coalition, Perikatan Nasional between Parti Bersatu Bumiputera Malaysia (Bersatu), Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and Barisan Nasional.
He was one of four Senior Ministers appointed alongside Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (International Trade and Industry Minister), Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof (Works Minister) and Dr. Mohd Radzi Md Jidin (Education Minister).
When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in Malaysia, he became one of the key spokespersons for the government alongside the Prime Minister.
Malaysia's first-dose vaccination rate is among the highest in Southeast Asia. To further accelerate the roll-out of vaccination programs, the government
has also involved Private Medical Centers and Clinics in this national vaccination program. By the end of June 2021, a total of 1,000 Private Medical Clinics or PPVGP are targeted to be involved in PICK (the National Immunization Program).
According to Oxford University's Our World in Data website, Malaysia's daily Covid-19 vaccine administered per 100 people in the population stood at 1.65 on Aug 2.
The rate was significantly higher compared with other countries such as Singapore, which stood at 1.09 up to Aug 1, Turkey (0.98), Japan (0.77), South Korea (0.74), Canada (0.6), the European Union (0,52), the United Kingdom (0.31 up to Aug 1) and the United States (0.2).
The Covid-19 National Immunization Programme had successfully rolled out daily vaccination rate of more than 500,000 doses. This achievement was in line with the set target and must be further enhanced so that the target of 26 million Malaysians receiving a complete vaccination can be achieved. Malaysia recorded its highest daily jabs administered at 556,404 on July 29, while the previous highest record was 553,871 doses on July 27.
A total of 33.75 million doses have been administered up to 27 Aug and a total of 19.2 million people or 60.2% of the nation’s population had received at least the first dose, including 14.5 million or 45.3% who are now fully inoculated.
Q: Korean people, especially the up-and-coming Korean businessmen need rest and recuperation. What are your tourist attractions?
A: For Koreans our main attractions are usually our many renowned Golf courses around the country, our huge shopping malls as well as our many nature sites from virgin rainforests to the Mount Kinabalu, the highest Mountain in Southeast Asia outside the Himalayan range.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, is a cosmopolitan city with amazing shopping and stunning architecture. It is a mixture of both the modern and the old where you will find the tallest twin towers in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, and a number of colonial buildings such as the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building which previously housed the High and Supreme Court of Malaysia.
Venture further to East Malaysia, you will find Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo. Sabah has been one of the top holiday destinations in Southeast Asia among South Koreans prior to the outbreak. Nearly 400,000 South Koreans were recorded visiting Sabah in 2019 with 67 direct flights departing from Incheon, Busan, and Muan to Kota Kinabalu.
Sabah is also home to the Kinabalu Park which is renowned as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The diversity of its culture owing to its 33 ethnicities who speak in different languages offers a truly unique experience especially to those who are not accustomed to a colorful multicultural society. Apart from cultural, nature and adventure destination, Sabah is famous for its exotic marine life that attracts divers and wedding planners from all over the world.
Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, is home to 27 ethnic groups. With 45 different dialects, each group has their own unique stories, beliefs, traditions and cultures. You can meet people from the Iban tribe, known for their legendary headhunting customs from days of old. They have long since ceased headhunting, but they still maintain their rich customs, art practices and language.
The Orang Ulu, or people from upriver,' comprise of different tribes such as the Kayan, Kenyah, Lun Bawang and Kelabit. Their exotic art and music have spread internationally, as seen in the growing popularity of the boat lute or sape. The sape has become the symbol of the Rainforest World Music Festival, one Malaysia's largest music festival.
Sarawak has a whopping 56 totally protected areas, 37 gazetted national parks, five wildlife sanctuaries and 14 nature reserves. Its rainforests are the size of Austria.
Sarawak's rainforests house one of the world's richest and most diverse ecosystems. Home to the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia (that can grow to the size of a coffee table), squirrels and snakes that fly, deer the size of cats, plants that eat insects (and small animals). The orangutan, proboscis monkey, hornbill, the Rajah Brooke butterfly and the silverleaf monkey, all call Sarawak home. Experts believe that there are some species of flora and fauna yet to be discovered.
The Mulu National Park in Sarawak is a priceless UNESCO World Heritage Site, in a league of its own as it qualifies for all four of the World Heritage criteria. Fewer than twenty World Heritage areas have managed this feat. Bako National Park traces its first visitors' footprint to 1957, making it one of Malaysia's oldest National Parks. Niah National Park is famed for Sarawak's genesis, with evidence of human presence from 40,000 years ago discovered in the form of Paleolithic and Neolithic burial sites.
Q: What are the most important festive days in your country? Please elaborate.
A: For many years Malaysia has touted itself as being "Truly Asia", and for good reason too. Malaysia is home to several ethnicities who still continue to practice the cultures and religions of their forefathers. And in the spirit of Malaysia's multi-cultural identity, many of these cultural and religious festivities are embraced by the community as a whole and celebrated nationwide, regardless of race or belief.
While the Malaysian calendar is dotted with a number of cultural new years, religious celebrations, and harvest festivals that take place all over the country, we have listed the five most important festivals and celebrations in Malaysia, Hari Raya Aidil Fitri/Eid al-Fitr
With more than half the country comprising of ethnic Malays who follow the state religion - Islam - the most important festival in Malaysia is the Islamic New Year celebrations of Eid al-Fitr, or as it is known in Malay, Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.
Hari Raya marks the end of the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, also known as the month Ramadhan, thus celebrating the end of a month of dawn-to-sunset fasting. Celebrated as a two-day nationwide holiday in Malaysia, many families would travel back to their hometowns to celebrate with their extended families.
It is customary for some Muslim families to host 'rumah buka' or 'open house', where they welcome neighbors and members of the community into their house to join in the celebrations where one can enjoy festive food such as curry chicken, beef rendang, chicken satay, ketupat lemang, rose syrup, cakes, cookies, and tarts.
During the Eid celebrations, the streets of major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta, the streets are often draped in spectacular decorations that are brightly lit at night.
Chinese New Year
Aside from Hari Raya, Chinese New Year is the only other festival in Malaysia that is given a two-day nationwide holiday. This is a time when the country really gets painted red as Chinese families and businesses would decorate their houses and streets with traditional red decorations in the age-old Chinese tradition of warding off evil spirits.
While Chinese New Year is traditionally a 15-day long celebration, most Chinese families would be busying themselves with family get-togethers on the first two days before returning to their normal routine after. That being said, many Chinese communities would continue on with celebratory traditions such as lion dance performances, lighting fireworks, and go to house visitations throughout the festive period.
It is during this period when friends and relatives are welcomed to visit one another's homes, where sweet treats and delectable dishes are served, while red packets known as "ang pao" are given to the children.
No celebration is as colorful and vivid as the Indian festival of Diwali, or as it is known in Malaysia as Deepavali where it is designated as a national holiday. Known as the Festival of Lights, Deepavali signifies the victory of light and hope over darkness.
The day starts off by taking a bath with oil and praying. Later during the day processions, street-fairs, fireworks, and get-togethers take place. It is the aromas of a variety of dishes lingering across the streets being one trait that truly symbolizes the festivities of Deepavali in the areas where there is an Indian community
Like any other festival, Deepavali is not without its pomp. In the lead-up to Deepavali and during the festive period itself, beautiful and intricate traditional rangoli artworks are made as both a decoration and a symbol of good luck. It is also during this time that the houses and streets of Malaysia are adorned with colorful lights and oil lamps.
Wesak is a Buddhist festival celebrated to pay tribute to the birthday, enlightenment and the attainment of Nirvana in the life of Lord Buddha. The festivities begin at dawn with Buddhists gathering at temples to pray, meditate, and offer food and charity to the poor. This national holiday is usually topped off with a grand float procession usually takes place during Wesak, where it is a sight to behold and usually features a giant statue of Buddha.
If there is a testament to Malaysia's multi-cultural identity it is Christmas Though it is estimated that only 9 percent of the population is Christian and Islam being the state religion - Malaysia also celebrates Christmas as a national holiday.
It is not uncommon for Christian communities to host Christmas parties and carolling where the community is invited to join in the festivities regardless of race or creed. Not forgetting the contemporary appeal of Christmas, the lead-up to Christmas is usually accompanied by Christmas jingles being played amongst the backdrop of grand Christmas decorations in many of the nation's shopping malls as to draw in consumers for a year-end sale.
Personal details of Charge d’Affairs Ahmad Fahmi Bin Ahmad Sarkawi:
Name: Ahmad Fahmi Bin Ahmad Sarkawi
Date/Place Of Birth: 15.04.1980 / Perak, Malaysia
Academic: Bachelor Degree in Microbiology (Hons)
Qualifications: Universiti Putra Malaysia
Marital status:Married and blessed with three children
August 29, 2005: Joined the Foreign Service as Assistant Secretary in
the East & South Asia Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
March 17, 2009: Second Secretary at the Embassy of Malaysia in Damascus, Syria
Nov. 1, 2013: Counsellor at the Embassy of Malaysia in Rome, Italy
Feb. 2, 2016: Director at the ASEAN Malaysia National Secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
July 18, 2016: Principle Assistant Secretary at the CLMV & Oceania Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
July 20, 2019: Minister Counsellor at the Embassy of Malaysia in Seoul, ROK