Wednesday, February 23, 2011


(This is an unedited article written after an interview with Tan Sri Sanusi bin Junid on his knowledge and relationship with the Koreans. This article will be edited and published, together with other articles, by Arkib Negara for its book on the relationship between Malaysia and South Korea.)


1. It was in Germany that Tan Sri Sanusi Junid first came into contact with the Koreans. He was then attached to The Chartered Bank and made in charge of imports from Asia, particularly China, which had just allowed The Chartered Bank to be the only foreign bank to open a branch in Beijing necessitating the bank to open the only branch in mainland Europe, in Hamburg, to facilitate importation of China textiles. Besides handling China trade Sanusi was asked to handle the Korean visitors who brought 10,000 unbranded ready-made shirts of branded qualities sewn by about 100 seamstresses at a factory of 50 sewing machines built near the North-Korean border under the Saemul Undong Programme of the South Korean President Park Chung Hee.

2. As a student being apprenticed to Otto Versandt, which is a company dealing with Asian textiles, Sanusi is unable to assist the Korean businessmen, as a matter of company policy. This dilemma weighed down so much that body language spoke louder than words and that caught the attention of his German boss who enquired what was troubling him or make him 'traurig'. Sanusi related his predicament and much to his surprise, his superior took an open-minded view of the matter which turned out to be the door opener for the South Korean foray into the European market. This endeared him to the Koreans which eventually resulted in the Chairman of the Korean company allowing him to translate Dr. Kim Woo Chong's book entitled 'Every Street is Paved with Gold' into Bahasa Malaysia entitled 'Kekayaan Ada di Mana-Mana'. Dr. Kim Woo Chong was the founder-chairman of Daewoo Corporation.

3. Upon his return from his study and training in Europe Sanusi was positioned as assistant manager by The Chartered Bank at its Jalan Raja branch and eventually became, in early 1970s, the Manager of Rural & Bumiputra Credit Division of the bank. It was in this position that he lent money to about 25,000 padi farmers in the north, 3,500 trishaw pullers in Kelantan and 800 small Malay business and petty shop-keepers in Selangor.

4. His exposure to the padi farmers led him into contact with Peter Oh who represented a Korean power tiller manufacturer Dae Dong. The farmers then jointly owned an unlisted public company Syarikat Insan Diranto Berhad which jointly became the importer of Dae Dong power tillers for its shareholders.

5. Being interested in distribution trade from his younger days Sanusi started a consumer cooperative SHAMELIN in 1972. At its peak SHAMELIN had 78 outlets all over Peninsular Malaysia. He, and his friends from the Malay College Kuala Kangsar recruited members of the Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs, students from schools, colleges and universities, and also the padi farmers to be members of SHAMELIN.


6. Sanusi stood for election, at age 31, in 1974 for the Jerai Parliamentary Constituency and won unopposed. The Prime Minister's department negotiated with The Chartered Bank and Sanusi was allowed to be an MP while at the same time retained his Senior Executive post with the bank. Without this negotiation Sanusi would have stayed with the bank as he was committed to assisting his rural and Bumiputra borrowers in providing their credit needs.

7. As a Barisan National MP  Sanusi visited South Korea in early 1978. He was pleasantly surprised when the South Korean Ambassador invited him for dinner at The Paddock, The Hilton at Jalan Tun Ismail in order to hand over a free return ticket to Seoul for him and his wife. The tickets were from no other than Daewoo Corporation who was contacted by the Ambassador's office when Sanusi requested for the Visas to visit Korea and handed over the President of Daewoo's business card while enquiring whether Daewoo, the small 50 sewing machine company with 100 employees, which he was introduced to in 1969, was still surviving.

8. Sanusi was again taken by surprise when at the Seoul airport he was whisked to a waiting private jet-plane, on a red carpet, and was flown to Pusan to meet a row of old acquaintances at the Pusan airport whom he had met in Hamburg in 1969. The next day Sanusi was again surprised to visit Daewoo factory where about 150,000 workers were employed to produce garments for Marks & Spencer, Sears Roebuck and J. C. Penny, in the USA, besides continuing to supply Otto Versandt in Hamburg.

9. On that trip to South Korea Sanusi also visited the manufacturing factory of Dae Dong Industrial Co. Ltd. at Daegu where he discovered that Dae Dong was also manufacturing bullets and canons for the South Korean military. Sanusi and his wife had the fun of experiencing, for the first time, the excitement of shooting at the Dae Dong shooting range.

10. On his second visit to South Korea Sanusi visited Hyundai corporation and met its founder chairman Chung Ju-Yung, who was a subject of Sanusi's post-graduate thesis while studying in Hamburg. Here he discovered that Hyundai was manufacturing 'Pony Car' which is a left hand drive small car manufactured in cooperation with Mitsubishi of Japan. Sanusi reported this visit to Tun Dr. Mahathir when he was the Deputy Prime Minister. While Pony car was a left-hand drive car Tun Mahathir was interested in a right-hand drive sports car and he was aware that for car manufacturing even Korea was getting the technology from Japan. When Malaysia produced the Proton it was with the cooperation of Mitsubishi.

11. Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company, whose CEO  is the current President Lee Myung-bak, won the tender for the construction of the Penang Bridge. Sanusi was asked by Tun Dr. Mahathir to find a Bumiputra partner for Hyundai, in compliance with the New Eonomic Policy. Both the late Dato' Syed Kechil and the late Tan Sri Ibrahim of Promet Berhad rejected the offer of partnership as the Penang Bridge, according to both of them, will not make any profit for Hyundai, as Hyundai had tendered below the actual cost in order to secure a contract. Any 30% stake in the project would only mean sharing 30% losses and not profit. Eventually Hyundai chose Hashbudin as their partner after guaranteeing a certain amount of profit for Hashbudin despite Hyundai suffering the losses.

12. In 1977 SHAMELIN's accumulated losses was about RM3 million. This was too much for a Malay cooperative although it would be peanuts in terms of normal businesses with 78 retail shops and mini-markets employing about 250 workers. However, armed with enthusiasm but with limited management know-how, it was a great experience and achievement. Had the government's owned wholesale  units of State Economic Development Corporations and Pernas Edar, been of assistance, rather than as competitors, SHAMELIN would have grown into giant chain-stores that we now have sprawling the country. Pernas Edar closed its business with accumulated losses of around RM100millions.


13. Before accepting the offer to be in the government, and resigned from his position in the bank, Sanusi discussed with Tun Dr. Mahathir about the closure of SHAMELIN retail shops and possible entry into real-estate business. Tun Dr. Mahathir agreed that SHAMELIN acquired a few hundred acres of government owned land in the Federal Territory if he could find an experienced partner to help develop the project. Sanusi chose Hyundai Engineering and Construction. Both Tun Dr. Mahathir and Lee Myung-bak agreed and a joint-venture company was formed between SHAMELIN and HYUNDAI with the name KIMALI ( Kim and Ali ). The result is Taman Shamelin Perkasa where the Melawati LRT Station situated in Cheras. The station was originally proposed by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur to be named as Shamelin Station but as Tun Daim as the owner of Melawati Development was more influential Sanusi lamented that the name was changed to Melawati Station.

14. In 1982 when Sanusi became the Minister for National and Rural Development a programme was arranged for his visit to South Korea to study the Saemul Undong self-help rural development programme. It was at the Blue Presidential Palace that an officer revealed Saemul Undong meant 'self-help'. The programme was introduced after President Park Chung Hee visited the Ministry of National and Rural Development under Tun Abdul Razak as the Deputy Prime Minister. On the board of the Operation Room of the ministry was a sentence from the Quran which means 'Allah shall not change the fate of man until they change themselves'. Upon his return from Malaysia President Park told his ministers and officials that 'the religion of Muhammad had commanded that God shall not change the fate of man until they change themselves' which means 'self-help' or Saemul Undong'. Sanusi was informed that two officers from the Malaysian Civil Service was sent to Seoul to provide our input into their rural development programme.

15. Sanusi asked the Korean officials as to why their Saemul Undong programme was more successful than Malaysia's 'green book' or other rural programmes. While commenting that Malaysia was also successful in the implimentation of its rural development programmes the Koreans were motivated by the Hwarang spirit which had proven able to unite the Koreans during the Silla Dynasty, of a thousand years ago, and also the successes of Admiral Yi Sun Shin in defeating the Japanese Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi with his 'turtle armada'. The bronze model of turtle boat was presented to Sanusi by the President of Daewoo when he first visited their Pusan textile factory.


16. On subsequent visits to South Korea Sanusi visited the Folks Village twice. Being so impressed with this village Sanusi brought his mother and mother-in-law to this village on his subsequent visit to the village in winter. He was thrilled to see them enjoying the snow. As not all Malaysians can afford to bring their aged mothers and in-laws to see snow it certainly encouraged Sanusi to build the 'Four Seasons House' in the Agricultural Park at Bukit Cahaya Seri Alam in Shah Alam, Selangor, where in the house's winter season artificial snow can be seen and played with.


17. The Korean Folk Village is described as a living museum in the sattelite city of Yongin in the Seoul Metropolitan Area in the province of Gyeonggi. It is an educational tourist attraction on 179 acres piece of land, and it serves to display elements of traditional Korean life and culture. Sanusi said that it is an added insspiration for his Agriculture Park besides Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Tivoli Garden in Rome, Italy and The Alhambra in Spain.


18. Sanusi was introduced to the Hwarang Spirit of the Koreans which is similar to the Japanese Bushido which simply requires courage, trustworthiness, discipline, diligence and loyalty as prerequisites for success in any endeavour. Sanusi sees this in the South Koreans.

19. With these values no development projects or programmes can go wrong.

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