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South Korea: Spies, politics and $bn-deals

Posted on Monday, 22 November 2010 14:12

China gets all of the attention in Africa, but South Korea is also involved in deals worth tens of billions of dollars and plenty of political intrigue. In July and August, South Korean spies put more than $9bn in construction projects in jeopardy in Libya while Daewoo signed a politically sensitive deal with South African President Jacob Zuma’s nephew and shipbuilder STX got the green light on a $1.5bn housing project in Ghana.

South Korea’s African engagement represents the overlapping of business and politics. In Libya, after a South Korean intelligence agent was found investigating North Korean arms sales to Libya and the Qadhafi family in June, the government in Tripoli put South Korean projects on hold. The South Korean government sent several high-level delegations to Tripoli to find a win-win solution to the crisis. In mid-July, Khulubuse Zuma’s relatively-unknown transportation company signed a deal with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering just days after Daewoo’s CEO met with President Jacob Zuma.

In Ghana, the government has put a $10bn housing deal on hold, agreeing to a smaller $1.5bn project after the terms of the project attracted large doses of negative attention from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in early August. The NPP object to the financial terms and to the awarding of a contract to an opaque intermediary that will get a substantial share of the profits.

This article was first published in the October-November 2010 edition of The Africa Report.

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