Strategic Non-Ambiguity: South Korea’s Position on Ukraine Undermines Ties with Moscow

By | March 19, 2023 | No Comments

The staple of Seoul’s decades-long “northern strategy,” Russia-South Korea relations have arguably reached their lowest point since the Cold War. Outside observers may see Seoul attempting to preserve ties with Moscow. As the following story indicates, however, Russia has made it very clear that, particularly in contrast to the “nine bridges” of the Moon Jae-in administration, South Korea’s support for the Western position on Ukraine has damaged prospects for bilateral Russia-South Korea cooperation.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, in Seoul in late January, called upon the ROK to “step up on the specific issue of military support.” The Economisthas urged the Yoon government to dispatch arms to Ukraine, calling opponents of the policy “parochial.” The question now, is how much longer Seoul can maintain its current position toward the conflict before it has to shift and take one side or the other more overtly. 


Russian MFA: supplying weapons to Ukraine will bring about serious consequences for Moscow-Seoul relations[1]


South Korea’s participation in sanctions against Russia reflects negatively on bilateral relations, stated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in comments made to RTVI. The ministry also warned Seoul against supplying weapons to Kyiv. 

“The Republic of Korea’s participation in the anti-Russian sanctions campaign exerts a negative influence on cooperation between our two countries in all areas” the Russian Foreign Ministry stated in response to questions from RTVI regarding Seoul’s laying of sanctions against Russia and the possibility of supplying weapons to Kyiv. 

“Russia has made its position clear to South Korea that supplying lethal weapons to the regime in Kyiv will inevitably bring about serious consequences for Russia-South Korea relations,” according to remarks from the Russian MFA. 

Since the beginning of the conflict, South Korea has aligned itself with the West on various issues. In particular, Seoul laid sanctions against the Russian Central Bank, and has been gradually expanding the list of items that fall under export controls on supplies to Russia.

With this, Seoul continues to refuse to sell lethal weapons to Ukraine, limiting its supplies to civilian humanitarian aid and the provision of military supplies not classified as weapons (armored vests, helmets, medical supplies and dry rations). The New York Times has also reported on the use of South Korean components in weapons supplied by third countries.


Original article by Andrey Fedotov. Translated by Anthony V. Rinna


[1] Source: Andrey Fedotov, “Russian MFA: supplying weapons to Ukraine will bring about serious consequences for Moscow-Seoul relations [МИД: поставки вооружения Украине повлекут серьезные последствия для отношений Москвы и Сеула]”, RTVI, March 18, 2023,


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