Zelensky tells Assembly Korea must do 'much more'
“Korea has the airplanes and tanks that we need today to fight off Russia,” said Zelensky in a virtual address to the National Assembly Monday. “Such weapons would not only save the lives of ordinary Ukrainians, but also give them an opportunity to save their country.”
Zelensky’s address to the Korean parliament came 47 days after Russia's invasion. Homes, schools, train stations and airports have been destroyed, forcing at least 4.5 million to flee the war, and another 1,793 civilians killed as of Saturday, according to the United Nations.
Korea provided military supplies such as bulletproof helmets and medical supplies, but has repeatedly dismissed requests for lethal weapons.
Most recently, Ukraine asked Korea for an anti-aircraft weapon system to shoot down helicopters and planes, during a call between the defense ministers on Friday. The Defense Ministry said the request was denied.
As in his addresses to other foreign parliaments, Zelensky made parallel references to the country’s past.
“Dear Koreans, you have experienced what it means to be in the heart of a warfare,” he said. “So many civilians lost their lives. But you overcame it, because you were not alone – it was with a lot of help from the international community that you were able to. We need the same, we need your help to persuade Russia to make a different choice.”
Zelensky was referring to the 1950-53 Korean War, which began with an invasion from the North and resulted in over 2.5 million civilian deaths. A total 16 countries sent troops to fight for South Korea, and an additional six sent medical and other forms of assistance.
Zelensky referred to the Holocaust in a speech to the Knesset in Israel, the Berlin Wall in addressing the German Bundestag and borrowed the words of Winston Churchill, “We will fight everywhere… and we will not surrender,” in speaking to British MPs.
Zelensky spoke in Ukrainian, which was interpreted into Korean.
Stressing that Russia intends to “wipe out” Ukraine, its people and culture by indiscriminately attacking more than 900 schools, train stations, airports and hospitals, as well as “slaughtering Ukrainian language teachers,” Zelensky said most cities in Ukraine were under attack, playing footage taken in Mariupol by a journalist at the end of his speech.
“Mariupol is one example out of many,” he said. “As president of Ukraine, I have to defend my country and my people. We are steadfast in our commitment to fight off Russia and we have received support from many countries including Korea, which we are grateful for, but we need much more.”
Following the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, the Korean government pledged $10 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and joined the global move to sanction Russia, removing Moscow from the SWIFT global messaging system and banning transactions with Russia’s central bank.
Korean representatives paid tribute to the valor of the Ukrainian people and their president.
“We stand here to salute the unwavering leadership of President Zelensky,” said Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party, addressing members of the Assembly on Monday. “The people of Korea are here to listen to the needs of Ukraine and to support the people of Ukraine.”
The conservative People Power Party floor leader Kweon Seong-dong cited killings in Bucha and called for swift action from Korea.
“We cannot but burn with anger at these indiscriminate killings of civilians,” Kweon said. “We know the depths of a war and what the people have to endure. The events in Ukraine are close to our hearts. Korea will join the international community to support Ukraine and wish for peace to come quickly."
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]