Not worthy of the G10
The world is coming together to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The international community is urging an immediate stop to the aggression. As the world watches Ukrainians battling Russian tanks with Molotov cocktails, people in many cities held rallies to support them. The Ukrainian flag is being hoisted on buildings in countries far from the conflict. Even famous Russian sports stars, once avid supporters of President Vladimir Putin, joined a concerted movement against the invasion. Nevertheless, Putin gave his forces a special order to guard their mighty nuclear weapons.
Major Western countries including the United States agreed to cut off some Russian banks from the SWIFT international messaging system, a card the West failed to use when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Countries volunteered to impose sanctions on Russia rather than passively following the U.S. lead. Despite obvious damage from sanctions on Russia due to their heavy reliance on Russian oil and natural gas, Western countries demonstrated a resoluteness to collectively deal with the crisis. Even Japan promised to release some of its gas reserves. All these moves testify to Russia’s serious violation of international law.
And yet, South Korea, the tenth largest economy, is dilly-dallying. After expressing an opposition to joining sanctions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took a step back and relayed President Moon Jae-in’s intention to consider Korea’s participation. In fact, Korea was missing from a list of 32 countries that the U.S. announced will participate in embargoes on Russia.
The government’s timid reaction stems from a need for cooperation from Russia to carry out Moon’s projects to extend inter-Korean railways. Moon expressed concerns that the Ukraine crisis will have a negative impact on his Korean Peninsula Peace Process. The attitude also reflects the liberal administration’s persistent pro-China and pro-Russia stances.
That’s a shortsighted approach as it directly goes against the basic principles and values that Korea pursues. Worse, ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung made a shocking comment in a TV debate last week. He attributed the Ukraine crisis to a “political novice,” referring to the television personality-turned-president of Ukraine. Lee later apologized, but his remark made us a laughing stock for the rest of the world.
The Ukraine situation is not a distant crisis. Korea must not hesitate to join the international crusade to confront a brutal use of power by one country against a weak neighbor. Moon and the DP have been patting themselves on the back for becoming a member of the G10. What are they doing with that distinction?