Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Seoul touted its successful experiences in achieving both industrialization and democracy over the past decades as a model for war-torn Libya, a move to attract the African nation gearing up for reconstruction.
On Friday, Kim Sung-hwan, minister of foreign affairs and trade, was quoted by a foreign ministry official as saying that Korea was willing to share its knowhow of rising from the ashes in the wake of the Korean War (1950-53).
Kim made the remarks at a meeting with Mahmoud Jibril, chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya, held in Paris on the sidelines of the Contact Group meeting Friday.
The foreign minister’s pitch comes against the backdrop of a flurry of diplomacy among European nations to woo Libyan rebels and to benefit from forthcoming reconstruction in the African nation.
Earlier this week, Kim flew to Paris for the Contact Group meeting and met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He also held talks with the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Turkey on the sidelines.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy summoned the conference to discuss ways to help in reconstruction and nation-building in the African nation after the NTC ousted authoritarian leader Moammar Gadhafi who ruled the nation for more than 40 years.
During the talks with the leader of the Libyan rebels, Kim delivered Korea’s formal recognition of the NTC as the legitimate authority in Libya.
Earlier, the foreign ministry announced a plan to provide the rebels with $1 million.
Since then, Korean builders’ commitments to send humanitarian assistance for the rebels have followed.
On Tuesday, 16 Korean construction companies operating in Libya said they will provide relief items worth $500,000 in the near future.
The government, on behalf of the firms, will work closely with the NTC regarding the details of the relief and timing before shipping to the African nation.
At the Seoul-NTC talks, Foreign Minister Kim said Seoul backed the international community’s commitment to allow Libya to use frozen assets for reconstruction purposes.
Major cities in the country were destroyed after the popular uprising that erupted earlier this year led to civil war.
European governments and China have toned up for the reconstruction of Libya as they have vital trade interests with the nation.
European and Chinese firms, which signed deals with the Gadhafi regime, were concerned about the tumult as they feared that a possible regime change in the country could put their business interests at stake.
The NTC has committed to honor the business deals signed with the previous government. Several European governments committed to provide funds for the rebels in an effort to keep their businesses’ interests intact.
South Korea is one of the countries having key trade interest with Libya. It is the third largest overseas market for Korean builders.
In 2010, Korean firms won record-high overseas construction projects worth $718 billion. Those in Libya accounted for approximately 10 percent.
Korean builders are looking for lucrative business deals in the Post-Gadhafi reconstruction as industry experts project the reconstruction in Libya will create business opportunities worth $100 billion or more.