South Korea to expand support for Ukraine as President Yoon Suk Yeol makes a surprise visit

by Lucas Garcia
South Korea-Ukraine relations

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol made an unexpected visit to Ukraine, expressing support for the country’s struggle against Russia and showcasing South Korea’s cooperation with NATO.

Accompanied by his wife, Kim Keon Hee, Yoon traveled to Ukraine following his attendance at a NATO summit in Lithuania and a visit to Poland. This visit marked Yoon’s first since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

During his visit, Yoon toured Bucha and Irpin, two small cities near Kyiv that witnessed civilian casualties and mass graves after Russian troops retreated from the region. He paid his respects at a monument dedicated to the war dead and held a summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

South Korea, a crucial ally of the United States in Asia, has supported Ukraine through humanitarian and financial aid. However, in accordance with its longstanding policy, South Korea has refrained from providing weapons to countries involved in active conflicts.

In a joint news conference with Zelenskyy, Yoon announced plans to expand support shipments to Ukraine but did not mention providing weapons. Yoon began his statement by mentioning the United Nations’ support for South Korea during the Korean War, drawing parallels between the current situation in Ukraine and South Korea’s past struggles.

Zelenskyy expressed gratitude to Seoul for its unwavering support in upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the significant aid it has provided since the start of the Russian invasion.

Yoon revealed that South Korea would increase shipments of nonlethal military items such as body armor and helmets this year. Additionally, South Korea would provide $150 million in humanitarian aid, an increase from the previous year’s $100 million. South Korea has also supplied Ukraine with requested de-mining equipment and other aid items.

Yoon and Zelenskyy agreed to collaborate on post-war reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. Furthermore, South Korea plans to establish a scholarship fund named after Yoon and Zelenskyy to extend support to Ukrainian students in South Korea.

Although South Korea is not a NATO member, it is considered a global partner of the military alliance, similar to Japan and Pakistan. In March, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Ukraine.

Yoon’s visit to Ukraine exemplifies his globally oriented foreign policy and demonstrates South Korea’s solidarity with NATO partners in upholding the rules-based international order. Seoul’s support for Ukraine encompasses not only humanitarian assistance but also arms sales to supplement NATO countries’ military aid to Kyiv, along with plans for post-conflict infrastructure reconstruction.

Yoon’s visit took place two days after Russia launched Iranian-made drones at the Kyiv region. While Ukrainian air defenses intercepted the drones, debris fell on several districts in the capital, resulting in injuries and property damage.

Ukrainian forces reported downing ten Russian drones across the country, including six Iranian-made Shahed drones fired by Moscow. In Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces, Ukrainian counteroffensives and Russian shelling continued, with sporadic attacks causing damage but no civilian casualties.

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) announced the arrest of a group connected to a Ukrainian plot to assassinate Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the state-funded RT international television channel, and journalist Ksenia Sobchak. The FSB alleged the plot was organized by Ukraine’s SBU security agency, but no evidence was provided, and Ukraine has not commented on the matter.

Yoon’s visit emphasizes South Korea’s commitment to supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression and its dedication to global peace and stability. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine serves as a reminder that regional security crises can have far-reaching global consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about South Korea-Ukraine relations

Q: Why did South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visit Ukraine?

A: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited Ukraine to offer support to the country in its war with Russia and to demonstrate South Korea’s cooperation with NATO. He also aimed to strengthen bilateral relations and explore opportunities for further assistance.

Q: What kind of support did South Korea provide to Ukraine?

A: South Korea has provided humanitarian and financial support to Ukraine. However, in line with its policy, South Korea did not supply weapons to Ukraine. Instead, they focused on nonlethal military items such as body armor and helmets, along with other requested aid items like de-mining equipment.

Q: Is South Korea a member of NATO?

A: No, South Korea is not a member of NATO. However, it is considered a global partner of the military alliance, similar to countries like Japan and Pakistan. South Korea actively engages with NATO partners in upholding the rules-based international order.

Q: Did South Korea address the issue of weapons supply to Ukraine during President Yoon’s visit?

A: President Yoon Suk Yeol did not mention the provision of weapons during his visit to Ukraine. South Korea adhered to its long-standing policy of not supplying arms to countries actively engaged in conflicts, focusing instead on humanitarian aid and nonlethal military items.

Q: What other agreements were reached during the visit?

A: President Yoon and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy agreed to collaborate on post-war reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. South Korea also announced plans to establish a scholarship fund named after the two presidents to expand support for Ukrainian students in South Korea.

Q: How did Russia respond to President Yoon’s visit?

A: Russia continued its military actions and launched Iranian-made drones at the Kyiv region shortly before President Yoon’s arrival. While Ukrainian air defenses intercepted the drones, some debris caused injuries and property damage in the capital. Russian shelling and attacks in other regions also persisted.

Q: Did the visit address the escalating tensions between the U.S., South Korea, and China?

A: While President Yoon’s visit primarily focused on South Korea’s support for Ukraine, it took place amidst the intensifying rivalry between the U.S., South Korea’s main security ally, and China, its largest trading partner. However, the visit did not specifically address those tensions.

More about South Korea-Ukraine relations

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Jake92 July 16, 2023 - 6:33 am

wow! south korean president visit ukraine that cool showin support for ukraine against russia!! gud to see cooperation with nato! hope they cn help each other!

musiclover21 July 16, 2023 - 6:54 am

the war in ukraine is such a mess. hope skorea’s support can make a difference. they should stop fightin and focus on rebuildin after the war.

bookworm87 July 16, 2023 - 8:41 am

so skorea offerin aid to ukraine but no weapons tho they dont want to get involvd in fightin. still gud to see they helpin with humanitarian stuff & nonlethal military items.

coffeeaddict99 July 16, 2023 - 2:22 pm

did u hear bout the alleged plot to kill the editor-in-chief? crazy stuff! tensions are high. hope things calm down soon and peace is restored in ukraine.

soccerfan55 July 16, 2023 - 7:50 pm

russia keeps attackin ukraine with drones, so dangerous! hope they can stop it. skorea visit was brave even with the danger, showin solidarity with ukraine!


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