The following are details of an interview with Charge d’Affaires Frahat M. Abdusalam of Libya conducted by The Korea Post for publication on the occasion of the 3rd Anniversary of the 17 February Revolution in Libya.--Ed.
First at the beginning of this interview, let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Libyan people who are seeking to promote and consolidate the democratic transition, value of freedom, social and economic development and construction in all sectors. Also, it is my pleasure to extend the thanks and gratitude of the government and people of Libya to the government, people and companies of Korea for the help and assistance that have been given and still continuing - to the Libyan people since the outbreak of the Libyan people’s revolution on 17th February 2011.
Due to the depth of the relations between Libya and Korea and the importance of Korea for Libya, Libya, immediately after victory of the 17th Feb. revolution, allowed and opened its doors for the return of all Korean companies to Libya, as first global companies that gained permission to operate their business in Libya. Now, many Korean companies are serving in Libya such as Hyundai, Daewoo, Doosan, etc., and so are dozens of small and medium size Korean companies.
At the same time, the government of Libya since 2012 has been calling on Korean companies to engage in its necessary plans for the reconstruction and development projects. On this occasion, on behalf of Libyan government I have the pleasure to urge all Korean companies to participate in building the new Libya through implementation of various infrastructure and development projects, sharing Korea’s development experience with Libya and transferring advanced Korean technology to Libya
Let me tell you that the first visit of Libyan senior official to Korea, after victory of the 17th Feb. revolution, was by Mr. Muftah Al-Douadi, the deputy minister of the Ministry of the Martyrs, Wounded and Missing People during the 17-24 April 2012. He discussed with his Korean counterpart on ways to cooperate between our two nations in search for the remains of Libyan citizens, who were killed in the fighting against Gaddafi military battalions. Now there is a team of the Ministry of National Defense of Korea working in Libya in this regard.
I would like to note the first visit by HE Mr. Ashour Ben Khayal, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Libya, to Asia-Pacific region, was to the Republic of Korea during 2-6 June 2012 and met with HE Mr. Kim Hwang-shik, the prime minister, his counterpart HE Mr. Kim Sung-Hwan, the minister of foreign affairs and trade as well as the ministers of Land and education of Korea.
The outcomes of HE Mr. Ashour Ben Khayal’s visit to Korea include support from Korea for democratic transformation of Libya through active role in rebuilding Libya via knowledge-sharing program and search for the remains of the missing, holding the next meeting of joint Korea-Libya Committee in Seoul as soon as possible to further enhance economic cooperation between two countries.
Libya raised its diplomatic representation from the Economic Bureau to the Embassy starting on July 12 and the two sides agreed on participation of Korean companies in rebuilding of Libya and enhancing relations in health care sector.
From the Korean side, there were several visits by delegation of economic, health, trade institutions of Korea to Libya during the year of 2012.
Third significant visit to Korea by Libyan senior official was by Vice Minister of Finance on 17 October 2012 heading a Libya delegation participating in the Korean-African Forum.
As part of discussion of ways to enhance cooperation between our two nations in all sectors, especially IT, economy, construction health, and other, the year of 2013 witnessed more exchange of visits by delegations from government and private levels from the two countries.
From the Libyan side, an economic delegation of the National General Congress visited Korea in January 2013. Besides that, Mr. Khalid Sharif, undersecretary of the Ministry of Defense of Libya, visited Seoul in October 2013 to participate in the 2013 Seoul Air and Space Exhibition, and discussed with Korean officials ways for increasing cooperation in the field of defense.
Also in December 2013, Mr. Ali Gadoor, Minister of Affairs of Families of Martyrs and Missing Persons of Libya, visited Korea in the framework of cooperation and coordination between the two countries in a program for identification of the remains of missing persons.
Korea was also visited by Engineer Mahmud Ajaj, head of the Housing Authority of Libya, and delegation of Misurata Free Zone, and the last visit by Libyan officials to Korea were carried out by Mr. Abdullah Hussein, undersecretary of the Ministry of Health of Libya during 23-28 December, 2013, which was aimed at strengthening cooperation in the health and medical sectors between the two countries.
From the Korean side, there have been several visits by delegations of economic, trade, health and defense to Libya during 2013. In addition, the Forum of Environmental Cooperation between Libya and Korea took place in Tripoli in June 2013 participated in by many of the government institutions and companies of the two countries.
The forum was an opportunity to develop a networking between Korea and Libya for more productive cooperation not only in the environment sector, but also to emphasize the importance of sharing the values of economic development and democracy creating better cooperation.
On the question of the visit to Korea by HE Mr. Ali Zaidan, the Prime Minster of Libya, during 2014, I’m not sure about this as it is well known the Libyan government would be busy during this year with drafting a new constitution and preparing for new parliament and presidential elections may be scheduled for the end of year or early in 2015, alongside completion of other major tasks including strengthening security, promoting stability and drawing up plans to start reconstruction in Libya.
These and other planned activities may make it difficult for HE PM of Libya to visit Korea for most part of this year. However, considering the strong relationship between Korea and Libya, the heads of Government and National General Congress (parliament) may visit Korea when their schedule allows.
I wish the year of 2014 to be an appropriate year for enhancing the relationship between our friendly nations.
Q: Introduce in detail the Head of Government of Libya:
A: The Head of Government in Libya is Prime Minister Ali Zaidan.
He was elected into power on 14 October 2012 by the National General Congress (parliament) and was sworn in as first prime minster of Libya elected by NGC in the era of democracy in Libya after the National Transition Council completed its missions and Libyan elected parliament (NGC) for first time after 42 years of Gadhafi’s authoritarian rule.
Prime Minister Ali Zaidan was born in 1950 in Aljufra Province for a trade- working family. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree from the College of Arts of Libyan University in 1973 and also earned a Master’s degree (MA) with a major in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University of India in 1980. In 1975, he served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Libya till 1982.
In 1982, he opposed the Gaddafi regime and joined the Libyan opposition represented in the National Front for the salvation of Libya until 1992. He is serving as a member of the Libyan Association for Human Rights since 1989. Since 1994, he has been the head of the German Agency for Human Development. He is well-known as he played an active and important role, during the 17th February 2011 Revolution against the Gadhafi regime, to gain international community recognition for the National Transition Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
He has worked as a personal envoy of the Chairman of the National Transitional Council to France and the rest of the European Union. After successful of the 17th February Revolution in Libya, he founded the National Party for the Development and Progress and then was elected to the NGC (parliament).
Q: What is the volume of bilateral trade and what are the prospects of increased cooperation between the two countries?
A: Trade between the two countries, recently, has seen a steady growth. According to data issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, the total trade volume recorded $1.829 billion in 2013 compared to $429.744 million in 2011 including $1.077 billion of Korean exports to Libya and $752 million of Korean imports from Libya.
The bilateral trade volume between the two countries is expected to expand during the year of 2014 to reach unprecedented levels.
In addition, the number of Libyan businessmen coming to Korea has risen to invest in private companies to export Korean products to Libya such as vehicles, spare parts, electronics, sea and farming foods, machinery and so on.
Q: Please introduce the tourist attractions in Libya.
A: Libya has many ecological zones and each of these zones has its own tourist attractions. The first zone covers the Mediterranean’s coastal stripe from west to east that includes several tourism sites including warm and sunny-weather beaches.
Libya is home to world class beaches such as Farwa Island Beach with velvety white sand with palm trees located in the city of Sabratah, Ras AL Teen Beach and many other beaches with features of diving opportunity and small cafes for visitors to enjoy like Tobruk and Derna Fortress and German cemetery.
Besides that, Libya has been inhabited since ancient times, when it was an important center of culture and commerce, and is filled with archeological sites such as Sabratah, which is home to many Roman ruins including temples, baths and amphitheaters.
There also is a Cyrene, a world heritage site, which was a major outpost of Greeks in Hellenic Time and Leptis Magan. There are five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country, three of which are classical ruins. The Roman cities of Sabratha and Leptis Magna in Western Libya and the Greek ruins of Cyrene in the East are big tourist attractions.
In Libya Just as the Mediterranean meets the Sahara, the visitors can find excellent desert spots such as sand-skiing and exploring beauty and attractiveness of the depths of desert by watching mountains and oases in the middle of the desert surrounded by palms and sand dunes in a scene that just cannot be seen other than in the movies.
In addition, Libya, as a Muslim country, has many mosques for the faithful to pray in, but many of them characterized with traditional Arabic and Turkish architecture and design styles and some of these mosques were established during the 10th century to become tourist attractions adding to other tourist attractions of Libya.