Saturday, September 3, 2011

Korean Plans $1 Million in 'Cash Aid' for Libyan Rebels

One Million Dollars
The government in Seoul has acted decisively on the Libyan conflict this week, describing it as "unfortunate" while promising to support the winner of the civil war, once it finally becomes clear who that is. The North African country is a major business partner for Korea, with bilateral trade last year amounting to $1.3 billion.

Korean companies have been concerned that the collapse of the regime could threaten their business in the country. Korean exports to Libya have already plunged 87.9% this year, with the export of medical supplies and food being particularly hard hit as Korean companies stopped supplying them to the war-torn country fearing they wouldn't get paid.

For many months the conflict has appeared balanced between the forces of authoritarianism under Colonel Gadhafi, and democracy promised by the National Transitional Council (NTC) operating out of Benghazi, but as Korea is a democracy which increasingly aspires towards authoritarianism again, political leaders in Seoul were privately agnostic about the outcome while assuring their Western allies - who sided with the rebels - that what was happening in Libya was "a really bad thing". It was believed that by privately making positive noises to both sides Korea's chaebol could ensure they emerged winners from the conflict, especially if Colonel Gadhafi's forces won, given that the air forces of the British BP and French Total oil companies had fought so hard on the rebels' side.

But considerable embarrassment was caused on Monday when fighters loyal to the NTC apparently overwhelmed government positions in the Libyan capital, causing officials in Seoul to announce they had been on the rebels' side all along, immediately promising to provide up to $1 million to rebel leaders. It then became apparent that pro-Gadhafi forces were still mounting a resistance, forcing Korea to announce that it misspoke about the promised non-traceable payment.

The NTC has nevertheless assured the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that Korea's business contracts in Libya will be honored once they take full control of the country, and Seoul has promised that it will make the $1 million payment once the political situation in Tripoli has 'stabilized', as well as ensuring that the supply of badly-needed medical supplies and food, which Libya has been desperately short of during the events of recent months, resumes as soon as the proper payment procedures are put in place by the new government.

With the battle for Tripoli over and normality returning to the capital, harrowing stories are emerging of harsh life and anxiety suffered by Koreans during the bloody conflict. "My air conditioner and refrigerator stopped working" said one Korean resident.

Related Links
Korea plans $1 million in cash aid for Libyan rebels
Pres. Lee Calls on Gov't to Fight Corruption
Korea woos Libyan rebels over recovery
Libyan contracts will be honored post-Qaddafi
Exports to Libya plunge 87.9% this year: report
Koreans in Tripoli tell of harsh life, anxiety

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