Tunisia celebrated its 57th year of independence from colonial rule Tuesday, as well as the second anniversary of popular demonstrations that swept the North African nation and toppled the 34-year-long regime of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in a reception at Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Monday.
Tunisia’s top diplomat here lauded the two events as milestones for his nation struggling to overcome civil unrest two years after Tunisian youth ousted Ben Ali from power, sending the octogenarian into exile in Saudi Arabia.
A new government is now preparing for free elections slated for June 23, and to attract sorely needed foreign investors and tourism dollars back into the country.
|Tunisian Ambassador to Korea Mohamed Ali Nafti (fifth from left) poses for a group photo with a government|
official and foreign envoys during a reception celebrating the 57th anniversary of the country’s independence and the second anniversary of the Jasmine Revolution in Seoul on Monday.
“We are thankful to all the nations who supported and are still supporting Tunisia in succeeding in the transitional period toward the setting up its irreversible democracy,” said Tunisian Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nafti in welcome remarks during the reception.
“Nevertheless, I think it is high time now for the Korean private sector to reconsider Tunisia, and we invite Korean companies to have a greater presence in this promising and yet attractive investment destination and take advantage of the continuously improving business environment Tunisia offers.”
Nafti also highlighted the work of the Korean International Cooperation Agency in Tunisia.
Tunisia is a $100 billion economy with a per capita GDP of about $9,500. KOICA has financially and technically supported development projects in Tunisia since 1991. Tunisia is now looking for transfers of know-how from Korea to Tunisia and investment.
“Among those nations, I can name Korea, a friendly country with whom we are sharing henceforth the same universal values of democracy and human rights.”
Recent street clashes in the capital city of Tunis between Islamists and those seeking a more pluralistic society have highlighted seesawing instability and violence.
The U.S. State Department recently posted a travel warning for Tunisia. “The security situation in Tunisia remains unpredictable,” the U.S. State Department warned on its website on March 13.
Chokri Belaid, a left-wing lawyer with a modest political following, was gunned down in the streets of Tunis in February. Belaid spoke for many who fear religious radicals are stifling freedoms won in the Arab Spring uprisings.
Korea warned its citizens about traveling in Tunisia, placing a level 2 travel warning for visitors since January 2011 which cautions Korean nationals to take “special care for their personal safety and prudence in traveling.”
Four Koreans have been robbed and the residences of two others have been burgled there since January 2011, according Lee Min-ha, second secretary at the Overseas Korean National Protection and Crisis Management Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The ministry rates the travel safety of countries on a scale of 1 to 4, 1 being the least dangerous and 4 resulting in an outright ban on travel. Korean nationals are prohibited from traveling to five countries: Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan.
By Philip Iglauer (email@example.com