Rational Choice Analysis in Sister City Cooperation between Bandung City and Seoul Metropolitan City


The end of the Cold War and the influence of globalization brought a significant influence in the expansion of actors, issues and scope of study in the international relations study discipline. The dominance of the States as the main actor has been transformed by the emergence of non-state actors which can be seen in the form of Inter-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Multinational Corporations (MNCs), media and individuals (Mukti, 2013). Expansion in various aspects then gives authority for sub-national actors under the state to play an active role in achieving their regional interests. This phenomenon then gave birth to Sister City international cooperation involving the smallest unit of state in the form of cities or provinces.

Understanding the Concept and Legal Framework of Sister City

Sister City could be defined as a broad-based long-term partnership between two local governments in order to develop friendly relations and promote cooperation in tourism, social and trade relations that benefit both regions. The new cooperation will be officially recognized after the highest officials who are elected or appointed from the two regional governments sign and bound themselves into a sister city legal agreement. This concept was also introduced hoping that it can help a city or province develop to become a responsive and resilient area in dealing with governance issues (Nuralam, 2018).

The implementation of Sister City in Indonesia was formed in accordance with the circular of the Minister of Home Affairs No. 193/1652/PUOD of 1993 concerning Procedures for Establishing Inter-City (Sister City) and Inter-Provincial (Sister Province) Cooperation Relations within and outside the country. Regional government authority as an actor recognized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in foreign cooperation relations is regulated in Law No. 37 of 1999 concerning Foreign Relations, Law No. 24 of 2000 concerning International Agreements, and Law No. 23 of 2014 concerning Regional Government which replaced Law No. 32 of 2004 concerning Regional Government (Pujayanti, 2018).

In carrying out Sister City cooperation, there are several principles that are of concern and then become a driving factor for the realization of cooperation in the form of an MoU. The principle consists of seven main points, namely: (1) There are similarities between the two actors; (2) Potential exchange between the two actors in cultural, educational, economic aspects; (3) There is a reciprocal positive exchange; (4) Oriented to society; (5) Strategic benefits in the short and long term; (6) The existence of privileges and closeness that distinguishes it from other sister city collaborations; (7) Stable political conditions to ensure the continuity of the cooperation implementation process (Shaw & Karl, 2002).

The principles mentioned above basically aim to provide benefits for local governments that are bound by the MoU. Several forms of benefits from the Sister City cooperation include: (1) the creation of opportunities for knowledge transfer and transfer of experience which assist in the management of development in aspects of cooperation that have been agreed upon by both parties; (2) support the emergence of ideas and the active role of local governments and communities; (3) strengthening friendly relations between the two local governments involved including their communities; (4) creating space for the transfer of culture so as to enrich regional culture.

Memorandum of Understanding on the Bandung-Seoul Sister City Cooperation

Diplomatic relations between Indonesia and South Korea have been officially formed since September 17, 1973. Cooperation between the two countries has shown an increase, especially after the signing of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership agreement in 2006 under the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Various kinds of cooperation have been formed between the two, starting from the level between countries to inter-regional governments, one of which is the Sister City between the City of Bandung and the Metropolitan City of Seoul. Similarity in administrative status at the City level between the two is the main requirement for the formation of cooperation as stated in article 5 of the Minister of Home Affairs Regulation (Permendagri) No. 03 of 2008 which regulates the terms of Sister City cooperation. Cooperation between the cities of Bandung and Seoul has started since the signing of the Letter of Intent (LoI) in May 2015 which was then followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by the Mayor of Bandung Ridwan Kamil and Mayor of Seoul Park Won Soon on October 7 2016 in Seoul. The MoU regulates several points of cooperation agreed upon by the Bandung City Government and Seoul Metropolitan City Government, namely as follows: (1) Exchange of best practices in urban economics (including technopolis development), urban planning, slum improvement, watershed rejuvenation, mode of transportation cities, smart transportation systems, digital platforms and e-government; (2) cultural, arts and tourism exchanges; (3) Economy and investment; and (4) Personnel exchange and short-term training of Local Government officials and staff to increase human resource capacity (Bagian Kerjasama Kota Bandung, 2017).

Rational Choice Analysis in Sister City Bandung-Seoul Cooperation

The theory of rational choice explains how interactions between actors and resources are formed which are attractive in nature. The actor’s attention to resources controlled by other actors will create a sense of mutual interdependence which then influences actions to maximize the actualization of their interests (Coleman, 1990).

Seoul is an example of a city that has succeeded in restoring the Cheonggyecheon River. The restoration of the function of the river, which played an important role in the history of the Joseon Dynasty, succeeded in transforming a formerly slum area into a green pedestrian area through the 5.8 Kilometer Revolution project initiated by Mayor Lee Myung Bak in 2003 and realized in 2005 (Suryoputro, 2009). The restoration of the Cheonggyecheon river has had a positive impact, starting from lowering the city’s temperature in the summer to changing the image of the city of Seoul into an environmentally oriented city. In this Sister City collaboration and its relationship with Rational Choice Theory, Bandung and Seoul are actors who have resources in the form of technology, urban planning and cultural management. This actor then has the capacity to control the resources he has to achieve his interests. The Sister City collaboration between Bandung and Seoul can be seen as an effort made by the Bandung City Government as a rational actor to maximize Seoul’s urban planning management resources to actualize its interests (Apriliani, 2017).

The City of Seoul, which has experience in urban planning, then provided assistance to the Government of Bandung City in carrying out the restoration of the Cikapundung River, which is located in Pasirluyu, Gregol District. Slum and disorganized riverbanks because unregulated residential areas are planned to be revitalized and then built several facilities, such as parks, planting vertical plants, and arranging slum housing (Pemerintah Kota Bandung, 2016).


Having similarities at the administrative level, Bandung City and Seoul Metropolitan City as rational actors have authority in managing their resources to achieve the interests of their respective regions. The Bandung-Seoul Sister City collaboration which was signed in 2017 was carried out with the hope of providing benefits for both parties. For the city of Bandung, which is experiencing problems with urban planning, especially watersheds, Seoul’s track record in river restoration is an attraction. Several other forms of implementation of the Bandung-Seoul Sister City (FA, Bainus, & Riswanda, 2020) are Collaboration between the Seoul Tax Department and the Bandung City BPPD, the 2017 Seoul Friendship Fair, the establishment of Little Bandung in Seoul City and Workshops for staff of the Bandung City Regional Tax Service Agency.

Putu Prisca Lusiani
Putu Prisca Lusiani
Prisca is Master of Arts in International Relations Candidate at Universitas Gadjah Mada. Her interests cover public diplomacy, Southeast Asia studies and human security related issues.


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