Building Dreams Across the Sea

Antonius Sunarto’s Success Story

2018 / May

Yang Ling-yuan /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Bruce Humes

Locals may not recognize the name, but An­ton­ius Su­narto is a king in the eyes of Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan. Endowed with a lively and witty tongue, he earned the loyalty of many among them via radio broadcasts in which he brought clarity to the uncertainties they encounter in daily life and on the job. Thanks to more recent live video appearances, with his friendly and handsome looks, and the occasionally playful behavior that enlivens his shows, Su­narto is no longer simply a reigning king of popularity; he has become the top choice to host large-scale events for overseas workers, such as the “Dreamers Singing Contest” held by the Taipei City Government in the run-up to last year’s Eid al-Fitr, the feast that celebrates the end of Ramadan. His own Facebook fans exceed 70,000, and with followers in Egypt, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, his reputation now extends far and wide.


A native of Indonesia’s Jakarta, Antonius Sunarto is a fourth-generation Chinese-Indonesian. In 1996, he came ostensibly to realize his father’s dream of studying in Taiwan, but stayed to develop his career and raise a family—only to be followed by his brothers, who have also come for education and work. He started out in radio, and as a program host became a household name in the Indonesian migrant community. In recent years, he has found opportunities in the Taiwan government’s vigorously pursued “New Southbound Policy,” and is now competing in the business world. Although he has resided in Taiwan for 22 years, he is still emotionally attached to his Indonesian roots. In the near future, Su­narto hopes to accomplish a glorious homecoming, the considerable fruits of his labors in tow.

Living his father’s Taiwan dream

Sunarto’s great-grandfather emigrated from mainland China’s Guang­dong Province, and he and several generations of his descendants settled in Indonesia, so Su­narto spoke Cantonese, Teo­chew and Hok­kien with his parents. His Indonesian accent was so impacted by these Chinese dialects that his teachers often corrected his Ba­hasa pronunciation. As a child his father had learned to read and write at a school established by the ROC government, which engendered strong feelings in him for Taiwan. It was his deepest hope that, provided he had the means, he would send his children to Taiwan to study and live. In order to realize his father’s dream, as soon as Su­narto graduated from high school he applied for a place in the university entrance preparatory course for overseas Chinese that was taught at National Taiwan Normal University. Thus in 1996 he arrived, a rucksack on his back, ready for a new life in Taiwan.

“At first, I couldn’t read Chinese or speak Mandarin very well,” says Su­narto with a smile, “so I ate a month’s worth of fried rice, the only dish I knew how to order!” Fortunately, during the period of the preparatory course when he was still so green, he met many ethnic Chinese from Southeast Asia who became good friends, including the woman he would marry. They all studied Chinese and learned about Taiwanese customs together, gradually establishing deep friendships for one another and accumulating affection for Taiwan. His skills honed by the preparatory course, Su­narto passed the entrance exam for business administration studies at ­Chung Yuan Christian University. This located him at ­Zhongli in Tao­yuan County where he immediately took root, residing there for more than two decades. He not only bought a place there, he also based his start-up in the city.

Upon graduation, Su­narto first worked as an interpreter at an employment agency. His second job was with the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office to Tai­pei, where he was responsible for receiving visitors and in­ter­pret­ing. This assignment opened up new horizons as he took part in meetings between the government and the business community, and hosted Indonesian VIPs. He not only had the opportunity to chair meetings, he also served as master of ceremonies for evening galas. These experiences nurtured his international outlook; they also added to his professional résumé and provided him with more options for the next step in his career.

Show host: Living his own dream

Sunarto’s personality is open and lively, and he has an irrepressible desire to perform. When chatting with others he often gestures animatedly, and his facial expressions are varied and dramatic. While at university he recruited a band and once dreamed of performing on stage—even cutting a record—so later when he worked as a presenter at Radio Taiwan International, he took to it like a duck to water. “A senior classmate at the university told me that RTI was recruiting an Indonesian-speaking presenter. He reckoned I could express myself well, and said that since I was then working at the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office, the combination made me a good candidate for providing information to migrant workers.” Emboldened by this encouragement, Sunarto threw caution to the wind and applied, and lo and behold, he got the job. “I had always hoped to perform on stage and display my talent. Even though I couldn’t become a singer, hosting a radio show counted as a way of realizing my dreams.” 

Sunarto’s hosting style is humorous and laid back. He recounts many anecdotes taken from life that capture the plight of the foreigner, as well as awkward moments that occur due to the language barrier. This helps his audience have a good laugh, and has attracted many to become loyal fans. He receives a dozen or so letters of support weekly, and this too helps keep him motivated.

At times, he randomly telephones a member of his audience who has written him, and each contact is a total surprise. “There was one who suddenly began sobbing quietly when he took my call,” recounts Sunarto. “I didn’t know what was going on. Later on, he wrote and explained that back then he couldn’t adapt to his job and things weren’t going his way. He was thinking of packing his bags and leaving Taiwan behind. I’d never have imagined that my call to extend greetings would lead to his feelings getting the better of him. But afterwards, he was able to master his emotions. He not only remained at his post, his thoughts of running away vanished.”

Sunarto mentions another thing that left a strong impression on him. Intent on showing concern for these isolated migrant workers far from home, RTI once organized an activity that brought relatives of outstanding workers to Taiwan for family reunions. One of the selected workers was based in Yun­lin in central Taiwan, but his employer wouldn’t consent for him to travel north to Tai­pei on his own, because he didn’t trust his employee. In the end, on the day before the event, Su­narto tapped his chest and guaranteed that he would personally chaperone him to Tai­pei and back to his place of work; only then did the employer agree. “When I saw that migrant worker hug his long-unseen child, I couldn’t hold back my tears even as I smiled.”

During his nine-year tenure as an RTI presenter, Su­narto’s warm heart and words penetrated deeply into the lives of Indonesian migrant workers, accompanying them each day. Although they are in a foreign land, thanks to the change of pace and sense of companionship provided by the program, their drab workdays no longer seemed so boring. 

Exiting his comfort zone

Despite the good pay and flexible working hours, for Su­narto the presenter’s job was no longer challenging, and he was keen to switch tracks while still young. With Taiwan’s government aggressively promoting its New Southbound Policy, he saw an opportune moment to enter the business world. 

In 2016 he began using his time off the job to help his friends sell beauty products, and he immediately received positive feedback. “My fans more than doubled to 70,000-plus, including many from other countries, as well as those who returned to Indonesia but continued to follow me.” Aware of the extent of his influence, he began to pay more attention to the quality of the goods he was marketing. “At first when I helped friends make sales, I was testing the water. But later when I selected goods, I would always use them personally in order to ensure quality.” Having confirmed his business model, he set up a firm along with his wife and one of his younger brothers. 

Although the firm is still in its early days, sellers of more than 50 products have already contacted Su­narto, including stores selling Korean-wave fashion that hope to exploit the attraction of his live video broadcasts to convey their message to Indonesian consumers. “­Actually, Indonesians prefer objective and sincere product recommendations, not empty advertising,” he points out. Su­narto believes that when products are presented real­istic­ally to an audience in a live broadcast format, and questions can be posed online and answered then and there, it’s easier to win the consumer’s trust. Particularly for brand names that have not yet acquired name recognition, this is a very good start. “The next step is to co­oper­ate with the biggest Indonesian e-commerce platform, and arrange for them to sell our products.”

“The Indonesian market is becoming increasingly open, much like mainland China’s ten years ago. The conversion to cash-free transactions is happening much faster than in Taiwan, and everyone wants to start a business and make some money, so it’s all very dynamic.” With each visit back home to see his parents, Su­narto can deeply sense the positive impact of rural residents’ yearning for success. Blessed with his dual advantages—as an Indonesian citizen and an ethnic Chinese—his ultimate goal is to build a prospsperous business that spans both Taiwan and Indonesia.    

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

日本語 繁體



文・楊齡媛 写真・莊坤儒 翻訳・山口 雪菜

















ライブ配信でショッピングというのは移住労働者の生活の一部となっており、呉俊星は2015年からインドネシアとマレーシアで人気のBIGO LIVEに加わっていた。後に、フェイスブックでも同じサービスを始めたことで、呉俊星は本格的にやりたいと考え始めた。







文‧楊齡媛 圖‧莊坤儒
















像這樣收看直播節目並購買生活用品,早已是許多移工生活的一部分。吳俊星雖然早在2015年即加入印尼、馬來西亞地區很夯的BIGO LIVE 直播平台主播之列,但是每天得想辦法取得粉絲量是件辛苦的事。「後來看到有人藉臉書開放的直播平台販售商品,引起了我的興趣。」





X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!