63 Koreans remain in Ukraine, 27 have no plans to leave
The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected, said President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the country.
"The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected," Moon said during a National Security Council meeting at the Blue House on Tuesday. "[Those involved] must actively seek a peaceful solution through dialogue. It is never desirable for the situation in Ukraine to deteriorate into an armed conflict."
The meeting came a day after Putin recognized the independence of separatist regions in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine and ordered troops into the country.
There were 63 Koreans known to be in Ukraine as of Tuesday, though none were in Donbas.
Of them, 14 are missionaries, four are students and 45 are self-employed or have permanent residency in the country, according to the Foreign Ministry. These numbers do not include Korean diplomats at the embassy in Kyiv.
The safety of Korean citizens remaining in Ukraine should be prioritized, Moon said during the council meeting.
“The protection of Koreans living in Ukraine should be our priority number one,” he said. “The ministries of foreign affairs and trade, National Intelligence Service and the Blue House should cooperate actively to ensure this until the situation stabilizes."
Koreans in Ukraine were ordered to evacuate by midnight Feb. 12, and no further travel into the country is allowed. Violators can be fined up to 10 million won ($8,360) or sentenced to a year in prison.
Of the remaining 63 Koreans, 36 have reported plans to leave the country to the Foreign Ministry.
The other 27 have said they intend to remain.
The Korean government has not ruled out flying the Koreans out on a government-chartered flight, but is not considering that option at the moment.
“We have had no request for assistance in flying our citizens out of the country, but we will cooperate actively should such a need arise,” said Boo Seung-chan, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, during a press conference on Tuesday.
There are fewer flights out of Kyiv by the day, with KLM flights ending on Feb. 12, Norwegian airlines since Feb. 15 and Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Swiss Airlines ending their flights on Feb. 28. Air France stopped its flights Tuesday.
Flights out of Lviv will be maintained for now by a few airlines such as Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines.
The Korean Embassy in Kyiv will continue to operate and assist evacuation efforts, said the Foreign Ministry. It opened interim offices in Lviv and the city of Przemysl in Poland last week to assist the Koreans’ travel from Ukraine into Poland. The Foreign Ministry has also designated four areas within the country — two in Kyiv, one in Lviv and one in the southwestern city Odessa — as emergency evacuation centers for Korean citizens.
Other embassies, such as those of the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia have closed down their missions in Kyiv and set up interim offices with minimum staff in Lviv.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]