Builders bracing for Mideast fallout

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Builders bracing for Mideast fallout

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Libyan antigovernment protesters in Benghazi on Monday wave the flag of the country’s former kingdom, which was overthrown by the current government in 1969. [AP/YONHAP]


Korean construction companies yesterday were closely monitoring the unrest in Libya amid fears that the political turmoil could spread to other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, the single biggest overseas market for the nation’s builders.

The entire region accounted for 69.3 percent (worth $47.25 billion) of total construction project orders won by Korean builders last year, according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra).

Construction orders from the region have risen as higher oil prices and economic growth have boosted demand for more refineries and infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, Korea was advising its citizens to leave Libya as antigovernment protesters attacked a string of Korean-run construction sites, which were looted, though no casualties were reported.

Some Korean construction companies were considering evacuating their employees, though the roads are seen as unsafe and flights out of the country are limited.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has designated Libya a “travel restraint” zone, the second-highest of Korea’s four-grade travel warning system.

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The government is considering sending a special flight to Libya to help in a possible evacuation of its citizens.

According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, telecommunications networks, including telephone and Internet, are strictly controlled by the Libyan government and the construction firms were having problems contacting their workers.

Libya alone is the third-biggest construction market for Korea, with total orders reaching $36.4 billion between 1965 and 2010, accounting for 8.6 percent of all overseas building undertaken by local builders.

Last year, Korean construction firms won $1.9 billion of orders in Libya, which made it the seventh-biggest overseas market for Korean companies.

Libya has been the location for such large Korean-built infrastructure projects as the Great Man-Made Canal, an irrigation project undertaken by Dong Ah Construction Industrial.

Kotra said that 24 Korean construction firms are currently in Libya working on 53 projects. There are around 1,400 Koreans in Libya, 1,200 to 1,300 of them construction workers.

“We need to decide whether we should order an evacuation, but we’re unable to communicate with the employees,” said a Kotra official.

Hyundai Engineering and Construction has the “most exposure” to Libya among Korean builders with 7 percent of its third-quarter order backlog in Libya, including five power-related projects worth 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion), UBS, a Swiss investment bank, said yesterday.

Samsung Engineering Co. has the biggest exposure to the Middle East and North Africa region with 79 percent of its third-quarter backlog in the area, the report said.

A total of 150 Korean employees of Hyundai Engineering are in Libya, including subcontractors. Looters broke into an electricity transmission construction site near Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city, and took computers and mobile phones, according to Hyundai.

However, there are no plans yet to order an evacuation from the country, Hyundai said.

Daewoo Engineering and Construction said it formed an emergency task force. It has seven projects in Libya worth $2 billion and 300 Korean employees in the country.

“Daewoo’s construction sites are far from the cities and hard to reach,” a Daewoo spokesman said. “The Libyan police and private guards are protecting the sites, and they are relatively safe.”

HanmiParsons, a construction management company, said that its office in Tripoli was robbed but that it had “no plan to completely withdraw from the country.”


By Limb Jae-un, Moon Gwang-lip [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]


Related Korean Article[중앙일보]

리비아 엑소더스…대우·현대건설은 “공사장 지킬 것”

[미·독·터키는 자국민 철수 착수]


“어떻게 따낸 공사인데 철수합니까. 당장 죽을 일이 아니라면 현장을 지킬 겁니다.” 리비아 벵가지 인근에 있는 송전선 건설 현장의 현대건설 관계자는 21일 밤(현지시간) 현대건설 본사와 어렵게 연결된 전화통화에서 “전쟁이 나지 않는 한 공사장을 떠나지 않겠다”고 전했다.

리비아에는 74개의 우리 건설업체가 진출해 53건의 크고 작은 공사를 벌이고 있다. 7곳의 현장을 운영하고 있는 대우건설은 “내전 등 최악의 상황이 벌어지지 않는 한 현장을 버리지 않겠다”는 방침을 정했다. 대우건설 비상대책상황실 홍기표 상무는 “ 안전을 최우선으로 두면서도 현장을 지키는 방향으로 대책을 세우고 있다”며 “상황이 나쁘다고 쉽게 빠져나가면 발주처와의 신뢰 관계가 깨질 수밖에 없다”고 말했다. 4곳에 150여 명의 한국인 근로자를 파견한 현대건설도 부분적으로 공사를 하고 있다.

전문가들은 한국업체들이 요즘 해외공사를 많이 따는 것은 위험한 가운데서도 공사 현장을 지키는 전통이 밑거름이 됐기 때문으로 본다. 현대건설은 걸프전(1991년) 당시 이라크에 진출한 건설업체 가운데 가장 늦게 철수했다. SK건설은 2003년 미국이 쿠웨이트를 침공한 이라크 군대를 폭격할 때도 현장을 지켰다. 이후 SK건설은 2003년 이후 쿠웨이트에서 대형 플랜트 공사를 줄줄이 수주했다. 86년 리비아의 트리폴리와 벵가지에 진출해있던 대우건설은 미국의 리비아 폭격에도 공사를 계속해 발주처의 신뢰를 얻었다. 한편 리비아 사태가 악화되자 미국·독일·터키 등 각국 정부와 기업들은 항공기와 선박을 동원해 자국민들의 철수를 서두르고 있다.


◆트리폴리 공항 폐쇄=정부와 대한항공은 리비아에 거주하는 한국인들을 귀국시키기 위한 특별기 운항을 준비하고 있다. 하지만 현지에 체류하고 있는 1400여 명의 한국인들은 비자 문제로 고생하고 있다. 정부 당국자는 22일 “리비아를 자주 드나드는 사람이나 일부 가족만 출국 사증이 있는 것으로 파악하고 있다”고 말했다. 리비아는 입국뿐 아니라 출국 때도 사증(비자)이 필요하다. 현재 리비아 관련 당국의 출입국 비자 발급 업무가 원활하지 않은 상태다. 리비아 수도 트리폴리공항도 이날부터 폐쇄됐다. 한편 외교통상부 관계자는 “한국시간으로 22일 리비아 벵가지 동쪽 토부룩에 진출한 우리 중소기업 직원 9명이 차량 편으로 이집트에 도착했다.” 고 밝혔다.

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