South Korean firms in construction projects with First Lady?

South Korean construction firms, many based in South Africa, were extensively involved in construction projects with the First Lady Grace Mugabe.

South Korean ambassador to Zimbabwe Jae-Hack Oh told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray on 1 December 2009 that the projects included a number of apartments and shopping centres “in addition to construction at her many farms”.

These firms were seeking to expand their presence in the country, and were prepared to do whatever was necessary to achieve this goal.

Oh said because of the debt crisis in Dubai, a number of South Korean firms were considering relocation to Zimbabwe but they were being held by the lack of political stability. Even Korean companies in South Africa were also considering moving to Zimbabwe, he said.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE931, AMBASSADOR'S COURTESY CALL ON REPUBLIC OF KOREA'S

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE931

2009-12-02 14:04

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO5293

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0931 3361404

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 021404Z DEC 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5174

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000931

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR BRIAN WALCH

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/02/2019

TAGS: PREL PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S COURTESY CALL ON REPUBLIC OF KOREA'S

AMBASSADOR TO ZIM

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR CHARLES A. RAY FOR REASONS 1.4 B,D

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The South Korean (ROK) community in

Zimbabwe, though small, is heavily involved in the economy

and works closely with ZANU-PF officials, especially Grace

Mugabe, the wife of the president. In addition to small

firms (photo shops and wig stores), Koreans are involved in

coal and gold mining. Many ROK businesses in South Africa

and Dubai have considered relocating to Zimbabwe, but have

hesitated because of the lack of political stability. ROK

firms provide 'gifts' to ZANU-PF officials for the privilege

of doing business here. The ROK has been trying to negotiate

a bilateral investment treaty with Zimbabwe for over four

years, a process that has been further complicated with

creation of the coalition government. Korean construction

firms, many based in South Africa, do a lot of work for Grace

Mugabe. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) I met with South Korean Ambassador Jae-Hack OH at his

residence on December 1, 2009. Oh is an outgoing individual

who speaks very good English, but who is not necessarily very

pro-American. The Republic of Korea (ROK) has had a

diplomatic presence in Zimbabwe for several years. Prior to

the opening of the ROK embassy, the DPRK had an embassy here,

but when Seoul sent its ambassador, Pyongyang moved its

embassy to South Africa and now only has a small trade

mission in Zimbabwe. There are probably North Korean

security and military officials here, but Oh was not aware,

or at least claimed not to be aware, of where they are. He

said that the South Korean community in Zimbabwe is small,

under 200 (including children), and consists mainly of small

business owners. Koreans run a number of photo shops and wig

stores in Harare. Koreans are also heavily involved in coal

and gold mining, mainly by companies based in South Africa.

 

3. (C) Because of the debt crisis in Dubai, a number of ROK

firms there have been considering relocation to Zimbabwe, as

have companies in South Africa. The thing delaying them, Oh

said, is the lack of political stability. The presence of

massive corruption has not deterred Korean firms, and in

fact, many routinely give 'gifts,' including expensive cars,

to ZANU-PF officials to grease the skids for business deals.

Seoul has being trying to negotiate a bilateral investment

treaty with Zimbabwe for over four years. When the ZANU-MDC

government was formed, Zimbabwe provided a new proposed draft

which Oh said was drastically different from the draft that

Seoul provided several years ago. He said it is likely the

negotiations will drag on for several more years.

 

4. (C) South Korean construction firms, many based in South

Africa, are extensively involved in construction projects

with Grace Mugabe, wife of the president. Oh said this has

included a number of apartment and shopping center projects

in addition to construction at her many farms. These firms

seek to expand their presence in the country, and are

prepared to do whatever is necessary to achieve this goal.

 

5. (C) COMMENT: Oh was a bit disdainful of EU colleagues

here, saying that their insistence on sanctions and other

restrictive measures have hurt the business climate and not

had the desired impact. A large part of that view is shaped

by the fact that Korean business people deal mostly with

ZANU-PF officials, and they repeat to him what their ZANU-PF

interlocutors say. There is also an apparent resentment that

Qinterlocutors say. There is also an apparent resentment that

the EU embassies don't seem to involve Korea in their

discussions about events. There has been a decidedly

Euro-centric focus in a lot of the discussions, and Korea is

not really involved in the same degree of aid and assistance

as other countries. That said, there does seem to be a

sentiment among some of the EU ambassadors to reach out to

Asian and African counterparts more than has been the case in

the past. END COMMENT.

 

RAY

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