Leave Ukraine, government orders Koreans in the country
"We have been in touch with all of our citizens in the country and are encouraging them to leave," a Foreign Ministry official said on Sunday.
According to the ministry, 306 Korean were resident in Ukraine as of Sunday, with 211 in Kyiv. The group includes business people, missionaries and students.
"We're also trying to find out if there are any Korean citizens who have not reported their residential status in Ukraine with the Korean government," the official said.
Midnight Saturday, the ministry issued a travel ban to Ukraine, which prohibits all inbound travel into Ukraine and also requires all Koreans in Ukraine to leave. Any violators can be fined up to 10 million won ($8,330) or sentenced up to a year in prison.
The announcement came as other countries, such as the United States, Canada and Britain, have been withdrawing their citizens from the country, including families of diplomats.
Key officials around the world including, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, have warned of an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sullivan said in a press briefing Friday that the invasion could come before the Beijing Winter Olympics ends on Feb. 20.
The Korean Embassy in Kyiv will continue to operate for the time being, according to the ministry.
The United States, Britain and Russia have started pulling out their diplomats from the city, and other governments including Australia have announced similar plans.
Koreans leaving Ukraine have to transfer in a third country in Europe as there are no direct flights between Ukraine and Korea. They may also opt to fly to Poland, Romania, Hungary, Moldova or other neighboring nations and stay there temporarily.
The Foreign Ministry was reviewing on Sunday the possibility of making government-provided evacuation flights available to repatriate Koreans directly to Korea.
"In order to provide more means of transportation for the urgent departure of Korean residents, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea could provide a chartered flight for the residents," or land transportation, the Korean Embassy in Ukraine said in a statement on Sunday. "We are working on a plan."
In case of an invasion or armed conflict in the country, the ministry has designated four areas within the country — two in Kyiv and one in southern city Lviv and another in southwestern city Odessa — as emergency evacuation centers for Korean citizens.
BY PARK HYUN-JU, ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]