Hundreds of Koreans escape Libya

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Hundreds of Koreans escape Libya

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A man holding an automatic machine gun poses in front of a tank in the east Libyan city of Al Bayda on Thursday. As the conflict in the North African country escalated to a level of civil war, South Koreans living there joined the exodus out of Libya. [YONHAP]


Hundreds of South Koreans joined throngs of foreign nationals fleeing Libya yesterday, as the conflict in the North African country escalated to a crisis level.

Seoul expected that almost half of the South Koreans in Libya could escape the country by this weekend - some by government-aided means, some by private arrangements. Still, others are opting to remain to safeguard expensive Korean corporate assets, alerting Seoul to every development unfolding in Libya.

An EgyptAir plane carrying about 200 Koreans left Tripoli, the capital of Libya, at 8:45 a.m. yesterday (3:45 p.m. Korean time) and arrived in Cairo, Egypt, two and a half hours later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement. Korean Air, the country’s largest airline, also sent a flight to Libya from Incheon International Airport yesterday at the request of the Korean government. It was scheduled to arrive at Tripoli International Airport at 6 p.m. yesterday local time and return to Incheon at 5:50 p.m. today Korean time. The plane is able to carry up to 330 people, and the government expected the plane to be full.

The ministry said it will send another chartered flight with some 300 seats to Surte in central Libya. EgyptAir agreed to arrange the charter, it said. “Because Surte is located between Tripoli and Benghazi, it’s not easy for people living there to evacuate through Tripoli and Benghazi,” said a Foreign Ministry official. At least 68 Koreans were in Surte as of yesterday, the official said. As of Thursday night, 1,069 South Koreans remained in Libya, and government and private evacuations were expected to reduce the number to 575 by the weekend, the ministry said.

The ministry said some of those still there, mostly employees of Korean companies operating businesses in Libya, were hoping to stay, citing the need to defend company property. In the worst case, they may have to resort to protection by the South Korean Navy destroyer Choi Young, Seoul officials said. The ship, dispatched in the waters near Somalia to deter piracy in the region, left for Libya on Thursday and is expected to reach the country early next month. The purpose of the destroyer’s redirection was to help evacuate Koreans if other options are limited, but protecting Koreans in case of grave danger is also being considered, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Meanwhile, Francois Zimeray, France’s top human rights envoy, said yesterday that it is possible that 2,000 Libyans have already died during the revolt.

“The question is not if Muammar el-Qaddafi will fall, but when,” Zimeray said.

South Korea is poised to upgrade its energy alert level and take nationwide conservation measures starting next week to deal with surging crude oil prices, triggered by political unrest in Libya.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]


Related Korean Article[연합]

정부, 리비아에 전세기 투입…교민철수 행렬

[벵가지에서도 터키 선박편으로 50여명 철수]

반정부 시위가 확산되고 있는 리비아에서 우리 교민들을 철수시키기 위한 전세기가 24일 투입된다.

외교통상부는 카이로에서 출발한 이집트항공의 에어버스 330기 1대가 오전 9시35분(현지시간)께 리비아 트리폴리 공항에 도착할 예정이라고 이날 밝혔다.

외교부 관계자는 "전세기가 트리폴리를 떠나는 시간은 아직 정해지지 않았다"면서 "평소 카이로-트리폴리는 직항 구간이지만 지금은 몰타 쪽으로 우회해야 하기 때문에 비행에는 약 5시간 정도 걸릴 것으로 보고 있다"고 말했다.

에어버스330기의 탑승 가능 인원은 260명이며, 정부는 철수를 원하는 교민수가 탑승 가능 인원보다 많을 경우 계속해서 전세기를 투입할 방침이다.


동부 지역의 벵가지에서도 이날 오전 10시(현지시간)께 항구를 출발하는 터키 선박에 교민 50여명이 승선할 것으로 알려졌다.

외교부는 현재 벵가지에 남아있는 교민 200여명을 대상으로 철수 의사를 계속 파악 중이지만 일부 건설업체의 필수 인력 50명 가량은 잔류를 희망하는 것으로 전해졌다.

외교부는 23일 오후 재외동포영사국과 국토해양부 직원으로 구성된 신속대응팀 2명을 이집트로 급파한 데 이어 이날 오전 튀니지에도 신속대응팀을 추가 파견했다.

재외공관장회의 참석차 귀국했다 22일 긴급 귀임 명령을 받고 출국한 조대식 주 리비아 대사도 이날 오후 트리폴리 공항을 통해 리비아에 들어갈 계획이라고 외교부는 전했다.

한편 지난 17일과 18일 리비아 데르나에서 현지 주민 300여명의 습격을 받았던 W건설의 한국인 직원 39명과 방글라데시인 직원 500여명이 23일 이집트 국경을 통과했으며, 나머지 한국인 직원 14명과 방글라데시인 직원 1천여명도 이날 중 이집트에 도착하는 것으로 알려졌다.


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