Koreans who fight for Ukraine could face trouble at home
Exactly how many Koreans responded to Ukraine’s call for help is unknown, but a source from the Ukrainian Embassy in Seoul told the JoongAng Ilbo that dozens of Koreans have contacted the embassy to express their keenness. The source told the paper that the embassy was planning to give specific guidance to the applicants via email.
Last Sunday, the embassy posted an announcement issued by the Ukrainian government on its official Facebook account entitled, “Appeal to foreign citizens to help Ukraine in fighting against Russia’s aggression.”
The post, which was written in both Ukrainian and English, read, “The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is addressing all citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine, peace and democracy. Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals.”
The post said that a subdivision, named the International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine, was being formed specifically for foreigners.
“There is no greater contribution which you can make for the sake of peace. For enrollment and details please contact the Embassy of Ukraine in your country,” the post continued, adding, “Give Peace a chance by protecting Ukraine and stopping the criminal invaders!”
The post was uploaded by Ukrainian embassies around the world.
In the comment section below the post uploaded by the Ukrainian Embassy in Seoul, one user with a Korean name wrote, “I am a citizen of the Republic of Korea. I want to go to Ukraine and defend Ukrainian territory with Ukrainian forces. Is there a way?”
Another user wrote, “Is there a way I can join as a volunteer soldier?”
Neither Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Ministry of National Defense has issued a clear-cut prohibition on Korean nationals joining the war, but multiple sources who spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo and the Korea JoongAng Daily on the condition of anonymity suggested that chances of the Korean government allowing its nationals to fight with the Ukrainian military were practically zero.
Some alluded to the possibility of criminal charges.
When asked whether it was illegal to join the Ukrainian military, a senior official at the Foreign Affairs Ministry told the Korea JoongAng Daily Thursday that the Korean government has banned Korean passport holders from traveling to Ukraine, implying that anyone who violates this ban could be subject to legal punishment.
By law, anyone who disobeys a government travel ban can be sentenced to up to a year in prison or face a fine of up to 10 million won ($8,286).
BY KIM MIN-JOONG, LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]