South Korean companies shelve Libya projects as workers flee riots
South Korea, one of the biggest investors in construction projects in the Middle East for more than 40 years and a major importer of oil, may have more to fear than most as it evacuates Koreans in Libya.
Seoul, South Korea
Hundreds of South Korean workers and family members awaited evacuation Thursday from riot-torn Libya amid fears that protests there would escalate into attacks on foreign companies throughout the Middle East.Skip to next paragraph
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South Korean officials said a special plane is on the way to extricate Koreans from Tripoli and that there were plans to send ferries to Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi after rioters attacked half a dozen Korean projects, injuring three South Korean workers and a number of others from elsewhere in Asia.
As foreign companies began to shut down projects across Libya, the United States and other countries with stakes in the oil-rich Libyan economy also began evacuating citizens, issuing travel warnings while the death toll in clashes between government forces and demonstrators soared above 1,000.
South Korea, one of the biggest investors in construction projects in the Middle East for more than 40 years and a major importer of the oil needed to fuel its spectacularly successful economy, may have more to fear than most.
On top of the rioting and looting of foreign companies in Libya, Dr. Lee cites oil prices rising above $100 dollars a barrel as reason for concern. The rising price of oil, he says, was the main topic at an emergency meeting Thursday at the Blue House, the center of presidential power.
“There is risk,” says Lee when asked about the possibility of violence against foreign interests erupting in other Arab countries caught up in a democracy movement that also bears parallels to mass protests here that ended military rule and led to elections in South Korea in 1987. “The fear is very high.”
Korean officials believe rioters from poverty-stricken regions of tend to see foreign companies as oppressors ripe for looting. The level of poverty, they say, is particularly low among tribal groupings in the Libya's east, where looters stole or wrecked vehicles and set fire to buildings.