South Korea considers further non-lethal assistance for Ukraine
Stars and Stripes May 22, 2023
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — South Korea will “actively consider” sending more non-lethal assistance to embattled Ukraine, the nation’s defense ministry said a day after the nations’ leaders met for the first time in Japan.
Seoul may ship landmine removal equipment and ambulances to Kyiv, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Jeon Ha Gyu told reporters Monday, according to a readout of his briefing.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion in February 2022, South Korea has declined to send lethal aid to Ukraine, but since June has pledged over $100 million in the form of vaccines, medical equipment, body armor and power generators, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance also agreed Wednesday to provide Ukraine with $130 million in financial aid, according to a ministry news release.
“As a member of the international community, we hope that the Ukraine crisis will be resolved peacefully, and as part of such efforts, we have provided humanitarian and military supplies,” Gyu said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to continue providing economic and humanitarian assistance when they met Sunday at the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, according to a news release that day from South Korea’s presidential office.
Zelenskyy in a tweet the same day thanked South Korea for its assistance and said he looked forward to continued cooperation.
A Ukrainian presidential delegation that included first lady Olena Zelenska met May 16 in Seoul with Yoon and Foreign Affairs Minister Park Jin.
Zelenska requested a list of non-lethal military aid, including air defense systems, “to stop the missile terrorism of the aggressor country,” according to a news release from the Ukrainian presidential office’s website that day.
“How to turn war trauma into growth — we hope to hear the experience of [South Korea], which once successfully did this itself,” Zelenska said, according to the release.
Yoon has condemned Russia’s invasion but has sent only non-lethal aid directly to Ukraine. His administration has cited South Korea’s relations with Russia and Seoul’s trade policies, which state that exports must be used for peaceful purposes and must not “affect international peace, safety maintenance, and national security.”
Yoon, in an interview with Reuters published April 19, said it would be “difficult” for South Korea to limit its aid in the form of humanitarian support if Russia conducts a “large-scale attack on civilians.”
Moscow, in response, “will consider any supplies of weapons to Ukraine, wherever they might come from, as an openly hostile, anti-Russian move,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said April 20, according to the state-run Tass news agency.