UPDATE : 2019.6.18 TUE 11:49
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Lebanon is a ‘Little Giant’ in the world with 14 million outside the countryInterview with Ambassador Antoine Azzam of Lebanon in Seoul

By Vice Chairperson Cho Kyung-hee of The Korea Post media

The Republic of Lebanon is a very, very special country in the world. Lebanon is a ‘Little Giant of the World.’ This became immediately apparent at a recent interview with Ambassador Antoine Azzam of Lebanon in Seoul conducted by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language media.
“Many people consider Lebanon small as her size is only 10,452km², which is smaller than a city in Korea, but we have Lebanese people in all parts of the world,” reminded Ambassador Azzam. Here are excerpts from the statements of Ambassador Azzam:

Ambassador Antoine Azzam of Lebanon gesticulates introducing many wondrous features of Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

Wonders of Lebanon:
Lebanon size is only 10,452km², which is smaller than any city in Korea. The population presents 4 million but the Lebanese diaspora outside Lebanon is estimated to be around 14 million.
For instance, more than 6 million Lebanese live in Brazil, 3 million in America (including 300,000 in North America), Africa and in other Arab countries. Lebanese people who live abroad are not refugees. They are known for their work efficiency and intelligence so they succeeded and occupied prominent positions all over the world. Lebanese parents have always invested in their children's education, which has made the Lebanese workforce to be among the most competitive workforces in the region.

Six million Lebanese in Brazil:
Why are there so many Lebanese in Brazil? There are 6 million Lebanese in that country.
Immigration history started in 1880 during the Ottoman Empire occupation to Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine. People suffered hunger soon after the World War 1 started and after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire many Lebanese tried to go abroad searching for a better life and opportunities. Then the Brazilian Emperor visited Beirut and opened a consulate in Beirut to facilitate the Lebanese immigration to Brazil.

Success stories of Lebanese emigrants:
Gibran Kahlil Gibran (1883, January 6 1933, April 10) was a Lebanese-American writer, a poet and a visual Artist. Gibran is still regarded as a literary and political rebel in Lebanon and in the world.
Carlos Ghosn-Brazilian-Lebanese French. He was born in Brazil, former CEO of Japan based Nissan. He made financial turnaround of Nissan from Its near bankruptcy in 1999 and he earned the nickname "Mr.fix it".
There are more successful Lebanese in the world such as the former U.S Army General and other names in the political and Economic field.
Story of other presidents and politicians whose forebears came from Lebanon.
Paraguay previous president was of Lebanese descent.
More than 250 Lebanese are actively participating in Latin America’s parliament.

Ambassador Antoine Azzam of Lebanon (right) poses with Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post (center) and Vice Chairperson Cho Kyung-hee of The Korea Post (left)

Cedar tree of Lebanon:
The cedar tree is the national emblem of Lebanon and features on its flag. The cedar of Lebanon was mentioned in the Bible for more than 77 times. Jesus visited Cana in Lebanon and made his first miracle changing the water into wine.
Lebanon cannot be estimated by its GDP or its industrial wealth. The Lebanese workforce is very skilled and competitive in the region. His Excellency the ambassador Antoine Azzam explained about how Lebanon has faced some hard time but could always emerge from crisis, saying that life is not easy and all countries go through ups and downs.
After the Cairo Agreement in 1970, Lebanon had to host many Palestinian refugees. While many other countries refused to help, Lebanon, a small country had to support refugees basic needs, health care, education, infrastructure, water etc.
The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) moved its bases to Lebanon and operated in the border between Israel and Lebanon. This Palestinian insurgency in south Lebanon created many problems with Israel. Then Yasir Arafat, the PLO chairman, started a military operation on the borders and Israel invaded southern Lebanon to counter the growing position of the PLO in the country.

The Lebanese war was not a civil war as claimed by many people/states. In fact, other countries were fighting in the Lebanese territory seeking their interests. Israel for instance has always been interested in the Lebanese water lands and gas -Ambassador explained.
In 1978 Israel entered south of Lebanon for more than 24km and occupied it.
In 2006, many civilians were killed in the UN camp of Cana in the south of Lebanon following an air strike carried out by the Israel Air force. This war has also led to the destruction of part of Beirut.

Beirut, Capital of Lebanon

Finally, the Security Council decided to deploy 10500 troops and draw Blue Line in the border between Lebanon and Israel. Since that time Korean government decided to join UNIFIL and sent 350 soldiers to further peace and stability in south Lebanon. These soldiers have contributed not only to maintaining the peace in the area but also to developing the Korean-Lebanese relations by teaching Korean and Taekwondo to the local citizens.
Other countries are also a part of the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission in the south of Lebanon such as France, Indonesia, Italy, Spain, Norway etc. they aim at avoiding any future conflicts between Israel and Lebanon.

Success stories:
Today we are using the alphabet that the Phoenicians have created in Byblos (Lebanon).
Two Lebanese brothers introduced the press newspaper to Egypt.
Lebanese had nothing except the brain, people can drain the grain.
Lebanon has a diverse population which makes it special. However it is facing the Syrian refugees problem. Today, there are more than 1 million refugees in Lebanon which is a serious burden on Lebanon’s economy. The world should also take a responsibility in solving this problem.

Relationship with Korea:
Korea’s big companies are already present in the Lebanese market such as Samsung, Kia and Hyundai. The Embassy’s objective is to introduce Korean beauty companies to the Lebanese market and increase the exchange of agricultural products like olive oil, canned food, wines, kernels and fruits. Therefore the Embassy is trying to solve the tax issue and decrease the tax rates.

Flag of Lebanon

The Embassy is also trying to encourage travel tours that can cover Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. These tours can be also religious since the three lands represent a meaningful value for Christians. For example, Jesus first miracle turning water into wine took place in Cana in Lebanon. Maria and joseph took refuge in Egypt and the Christ was baptized in Jordan.

Lebanon is an attractive destination for investments in the regional markets. It is also a gate to build Syria and Iraq as well as a gate to the African market. Through this long and interesting conversation, we got a deep knowledge about Lebanon and the middle-East. Korean post team members were thankful for the Ambassador Antoine Azzam.

Lebanese Celebrity & popular Politician:
Lebanese singer Majida El Roumi
Lebanese star Nancy Ajram
Lebanese singer Ragheb Alami
Bahia Hariri was elected as a member of the Lebanese parliament.

Cho Kyung-hee  edt@koreapost.com

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