PPP leader Lee Jun-seok raises profile on trip to Ukraine
“The delegation visited the burial site of tortured civilians in the Bucha district near Kyiv and inspected a destroyed residential area in Irpin,” Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv regional military administration, was quoted by Korean media outlets from a Facebook account on Sunday. The post appeared to have been deleted afterward.
Kuleba maintained on another social media account on Twitter that the Korean and Ukrainian delegations discussed possibilities of cooperation to restore the Kyiv area and assist Ukraine now.
Lee was the first Korean politician and the first Asian political party leader to travel to Ukraine, leading a delegation including PPP reps Jeong Dong-man, Kim Hyung-dong, Her Eun-a, Park Seong-min and Tae Yong-ho.
They left for Ukraine Friday night and are scheduled to stay through Thursday. Over the weekend they met with members of NGOs supporting Ukrainians on site.
It remains to be seen if the Korean delegation will meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who asked for Korea to send anti-aircraft weapons during an address of the National Assembly in April.
“The Ukrainian government hopes that Korea will take active steps to cooperate with Ukraine on military logistics,” said Dmytro Ponomarenko, Ukrainian ambassador to Korea, speaking with the press on Friday outside a National Assembly building, after meeting with Lee.
In response to a reporter’s question on whether the Ukrainian government still hopes for weapons support from Korea, Ponomarenko said, “Yes, it is our strong hope that Korea would.”
While Korea is the world’s sixth largest weapons exporter, it has balked at Ukrainian requests for lethal weapons.
It has provided Kyiv only with humanitarian relief and non-lethal military supplies such as bulletproof helmets, blankets and medical supplies, according to Seoul’s defense ministry.
The Ukrainian government has received several foreign delegations and leaders since the outbreak of the war, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, American first lady Jill Biden, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, as well as the presidents of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
PPP leader Lee will return to Korea in time for a meeting with President Yoon Suk-yeol on June 10, along with other senior members of the PPP.
Lee, a Harvard graduate, has a history of traveling to foreign locations under distress, a move that some critics see as showboating.
He traveled to Hong Kong in the midst of its pro-democracy rallies in 2019 to support the demonstrators, when he was a member of the supreme council of the Bareun Mirae Party, a combination of the People’s Party and Bareun Party that existed for two years from February 2018.
“Lee Jun-seok, who has gained general popularity among his constituents, still lacks experience in economics, diplomacy and security,” a PPP member told the JoongAng Ilbo. “It seems that Lee is dreaming big and trying to fill those gaps [through this visit].”
BY ESTHER CHUNG, PARK TAE-IN [email@example.com]