President Yudhoyono and His Father-in-law, Amb. Wibowo
It was a great, memorable occasion for me that I met Indonesian President S.B. Yudhoyono together with the First Lady during the APEC Leaders' Meeting on Nov. 20th, 2005 in the southern Korean port city of Busan. I have met more than 300 heads of state in the past three decades since 1975, but never before had I interviewed any President accompanied by his First Lady. This time, however, I specifically asked for a meeting with President Yudhoyono with the First Lady as there was an unknown story regarding the father of the First Lady. I would like to introduce that episode briefly. I first met her father, Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, shortly after he arrived in Seoul as Indonesian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea in 1975. During our conversation, I happened to ask him about his military rank. When told that he was a major general, I curiously asked what was the rank of the then Indonesian ambassador to North Korea. Hearing that the Indonesian ambassador in Pyongyang was a three-star general, I complained that it was not fair for Indonesia to send a two-star general to Seoul, while it had a three-star general serving in Pyongyang. I suggested that he send a report to his home government to the effect that a senior Korean journalist in Seoul was critical of the unbalanced military ranks between its envoys in Seoul and Pyongyang. Then, I jokingly said that "I am sure you will soon be promoted to the rank of lieutenant general because you came to Seoul only two months ago." I assume that he must have sent a report on our conversation to then President Suharto in Jakarta. About two months later, Amb. Wibowo suddenly called me by telephone, telling me excitedly, "Mr. Limb! I am promoted to lieutenant general because of you. Thank you so much!" I was so pleased to hear the news. One day, Amb. Wibowo invited me to a lunch at his residence. "Mr. Limb, I would like to show you my uniform of lieutenant general because you have made it happen." So, I had lunch with Lt. Gen. Wibowo in uniform. This episode made us very close and intimate, and we had a lot of contact even after he left Seoul in 1978, until his death a few years ago. In fact, Amb. Wibowo was one of the greatest patriots of his home country and a very capable leader. While meeting President Yudhoyono and the First Lady, I thought Amb. Wibowo must be very happy to look down at my meeting with his son-in-law and daughter from heaven. I disclosed this story to the President and the First Lady, who said they had been aware of that story. I was also told that the President visited Korea in 1977, on his way home from the United States where he was studying, to meet his sweetheart, now First Lady, for one week. I hope that President Yudhoyono will become a great leader not only in Asia but throughout the world.