Korea's mildeok put their collections to use to help Ukraine
For years, Korean collectors and enthusiasts of military equipment have avidly followed technological advances abroad and in the burgeoning domestic defense industry, commenting on the latest armaments and weapons systems created by Korean companies.
Now, they are answering a call from the Ukrainian Embassy in Seoul for materiel assistance to the besieged country’s armed forces, which are locked in a struggle against a Russian invasion.
The outpouring of military equipment donations comes from hobbyists — who called themselves mildeok, a portmanteau of the English word “military” and the Korean word deokhu, which roughly translates to “geek” — who track the latest developments in modern warfare and collect products typically designed for use in combat.
One 29-year-old man, who identified himself only by the surname Lim, left 30 different kinds of military-use personal protective equipment at the Ukrainian Embassy in Yongsan District, central Seoul, on Thursday.
Lim, who has collected military equipment as a hobby since he was in high school, donated 30 different types of gear, including bulletproof helmets, military blankets, hemostatic tourniquets and ammunition pouches. He said the majority of the supplies he gave to the embassy were imports from foreign manufacturers.
“I narrowed my donations down to items which would be useful to soldiers in the field,” Lim said. “I have no occasion to use them, and they would be far more helpful to [Ukrainians] than sitting untouched in the corner of my room.”
He added, “I’m glad that my hobby and knowledge serves a useful purpose this time.”
Thirty-four-year-old Seo Yoo-seok, who runs a domestic tactical equipment manufacturer, also donated 1 million won ($815) worth of bulletproof vests, gun slings and ammunition pouches made by his company directly to the Ukrainian Embassy.
“There haven’t been many occasions to donate equipment,” Seo said. “I hope there are more opportunities to help out in the future.”
On social media such as Twitter and Facebook, Korea’s military enthusiasts have posted photos of the equipment they dropped off at the embassy, typically accompanied by words of encouragement for Ukraine’s military.
“Among the donated items, about 50 kilograms [110 pounds] of bulletproof armor, combat vests, knee and elbow guards, and first aid kits have already been delivered to Ukraine,” said an official at the Ukrainian Embassy who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday.
While the embassy did not put out a public notice for such donations in its official communications, the official said it told individual Koreans inquiring about how they can help Ukraine that the country needs equipment, such as bulletproof helmets, to better protect its troops.
That response was widely circulated in online communities for military gear enthusiasts, leading to the stream of donations.
In practice, the Ukrainian Embassy in Korea is open to donations of bulletproof helmets, bulletproof body gear, handheld communications devices, radios, combat uniforms and power generators.
According to the official at the embassy, the country’s armed forces need more bulletproof gear, but added that officials cannot accept donations of bottled water, food or used clothes due to constraints on the quantity and volume of supplies that can currently be sent to Ukraine.
The embassy will also not accept combat uniforms currently used by the South Korean military or combat uniforms similar to those worn by the Russian military.
The embassy reminded Korean donors of military equipment that unlike contributions for humanitarian purposes, donations of gear will be delivered to the Ukrainian military for use in combat.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]