Libyans overrun Korean building sites in Tripoli

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Libyans overrun Korean building sites in Tripoli

In Libya, no one’s words carry as much weight as that of its leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi.

But even Qaddafi has to take words back some time ? and pay for the damage they cause.

According to an official from the International Contractors Association of Korea, on Sunday, the Libyan leader said in a speech at a meeting of the General People’s Congress, which was reported in the media, that houses and apartments being built by foreign construction companies belong to the Libyan people, who have the right to live in them.

Lots of Libyans took his words at face value and raided apartment construction sites run by Korean and other foreign companies. Some tried to occupy the unfinished apartments, bringing in blankets and carpets.

Hundreds of Libyans descended on four Korean-run construction sites in the capital of Tripoli on Jan. 14 and 15, destroying heavy equipment, looting money and other valuables, and setting vehicles and other facilities on fire, according to company officials. One Korean construction worker was injured after being slugged in the face, according to media reports.

About 100 Libyans are still occupying one site and local police are trying to persuade them to leave. Construction activity has halted on some sites, but foreign ministry officials said the disorder will not spread further.

The Libyan government has expressed its willingness to compensate the companies, and the Korean embassy in Tripoli will assess the damage, which is estimated at about 45 billion won ($40 million), the foreign ministry said.

“As far as I know, the riots have cooled down and the Libyan government promised to pay compensation,” said Do Tae-ho, officer of Construction Policy at the Ministry of Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs.

After Qaddafi’s promise, locals attacked construction sites run by Chinese, Turkish and Malaysian companies too.

Korean companies have worked on construction projects in Libya since 1978.


By Ham Jong-sun, Yim Seung-hye [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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