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(LEAD) S. Korean builders on alert after rioting in Libya

All Headlines 16:42 February 21, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with government response in 13-15 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korean builders are moving to boost security at their construction sites in Arab countries following protesters' looting of three construction sites in Libya last week, a trade association said Monday.

According to the International Contractors Association of Korea (ICAK), a total of 70 South Korean builders have been conducting construction projects in such countries as Libya, Yemen, Iran, Morocco and Bahrain in which pro-democracy demonstrations have been intensifying since late January.

Of the builders, 61 have advanced into Libya, where the most violent protests in the five Middle Eastern countries have taken place, the ICAK said.

About 200 people in Darnah, an eastern coastal town in Libya, barged into a construction site run by a South Korean builder on Thursday and set fire to a dormitory for Korean workers near the site on Friday, according to Seoul's foreign ministry. A similar incident happened at the same site last month, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Some 100 South Korean workers from seven builders have been carrying out construction projects in the northeastern part of the Middle Eastern country, including Darnah, the association said.

A South Korean-run construction site in Benghazi, an eastern port city of Libya, was raided by 10 Libyan people on Sunday, while another site in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, was attacked by hundreds of Libyan people, according to the ministry. Three Korean workers from the Tripoli construction site were wounded.

As violence against South Korean builders intensifies, they have been on the alert against possible intrusions into their construction sites, the association said.

Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co., South Korea's fourth-largest builder, said Monday that it keeps tabs on the situation as Libyan forces are guarding its construction sites.

In January, Daewoo Engineering broke ground for a hospital in Tripoli with the aim of completing it by October 2013. The company also won a deal in August 2010 to build a power plant in Zwitina, southeastern Libya, by May 2013.

South Korea's top builder, Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., said it has no plan to withdraw from its construction sites in Libya. The builders have been constructing thermal power plants in Tripoli and in Al Khalij, about 500 kilometers east of Tripoli.

The South Korean government is busy providing measures to protect Korean workers in the Middle Eastern countries.

"Workers in Benghazi were moved to safety following instructions by our embassy in Libya," said an official at the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs.

The ministry has launched a special response team to protect Korean workers and residents against riots in the Middle Eastern countries.

As part of such efforts, the ministry will dispatch two governments officers to the South Korean embassy in Libya on Wednesday.

If recent riots in Libya turn into a national crisis like Egypt, the ministry said it will take measures to fly Korea workers and residents in Libya to South Korea in cooperation with the foreign ministry.

Local builders, which have presences in Yemen, Iran, Morocco and Bahrain, have yet to report damage from protesters, but they are paying sharp attention to possible riots, the ICAK said.


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