Ethnic Korean Civil Society in Post-Soviet Space: No Arms to Ukraine

By | April 26, 2023 | No Comments

If the South Korean government itself only cautiously and reluctantly changed its position on providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, ethnic Koreans living in the post-Soviet space have been caught in an even more difficult position. A number of ethnic Koreans in Ukraine have fled to South Korea, showing how blood ties to “a land they never knew” can be a benefit when times get hard. Yet civil society organizations representing those ethnic Koreans who call Russia and Central Asia home have recently voiced opposition to Seoul stepping in to provide arms to Ukraine. While its probably not enough to sway Seoul away from providing lethal military aid to Ukraine, it does offer insight into how ethnic Koreans in the post-Soviet space view South Korea’s place in the broader geopolitical framework of the ongoing war in Ukraine. 


[Independent] A Statement from Ethnic Korean Associations in Russia and the CIS on the South Korean Government’s Comments About Supplying Weapons to Ukraine[1]


Ethnic Koreans in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) approve South Korea’s provision of humanitarian aid to Ukraine as a member of the international community. Also, they, more than anyone, are suffering economic and social pain, yet have lent their faith and support to the ROK government, all the while suffering in silence as they hope the situation will come to a swift end. Yet as awareness grows of the South Korean president’s comments about providing weapons to Ukraine, they realize that they cannot simply sit by – as such, on behalf of all Koreans, they have raised their collective voice and issued the following statement.


“Ethnic Koreans in Russia and the CIS oppose providing lethal weapons to Ukraine under any circumstances”


In an interview with Reuters on April 19, 2023, President Yoon said “If there is a situation the international community cannot condone, such as any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre or serious violation of the laws of war, it might be difficult for us to insist only on humanitarian or financial support.” This can be interpreted as a change in the government’s stance toward Ukraine from one of possibly providing weapons.

Last October, Putin warned during a meeting at the Valdai Discussion Club that if South Korea provided Ukraine with weapons, it will destroy Russia-South Korea relations. Yet in November the Wall Street Journal reported that South Korea was working with the US to sell 100,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition, and last April 9, leaked US documents showed there were plans to transfer 330,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition through Germany. These reports have been supported by evidence in domestic media reports as well.

Amidst this worsening situation, even though we’ve had these three hints, ethnic Koreans in Russia and the CIS have grown more fearful with the government’s shifting of its stance on providing lethal weapons to potentially becoming policy. In fact, Dmitri Medvedev, deputy chairperson of Russia’s Security Council, as well as Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov and Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova have warned that hinting at the possibility of providing weapons to Ukraine could mean joining the war in a way.

This immediate expression of its opposition on Russia’s part shows the situation is getting serious. Still, the ROK Presidential Office only reiterates its fundamental position that it will not provide weapons support, without providing the public with an honest explanation.

Ethnic Koreans in Russia are seriously worried that President Yoon, during his state visit to the US, will simply agree to abide by the US’s interests and its position in contrast to the opinion of most Korean nationals.

We decidedly oppose South Korea becoming party to the widespread loss of life by exporting lethal weapons.

More weapons only beget more weapons, which will in turn claim more victims. As the people of South Korea fear that they will suffer unwanted pain if the ROK gets swept up in a great power competition between its neighbors, we ethnic Koreans in Russia and the CIS express our will by declaring the following two points.

First, South Korea must, in any and all circumstances, affirm before the whole world the principle that it will not provide Ukraine with lethal weapons.

Second, the ROK government must make clear during the ROK-US summit that it can only provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine.


Korean Association of Saint Petersburg

Korean Association of Primorye

Korean Residents’ Association on Sakhalin

Association of Koreans in the Kyrgyz Republic

Association of Korean Residents in Uzbekistan


Original article by Ahn Jung-hyun. Translated by Anthony V. Rinna.


[1] Source: “[Independent] A Statement from Ethnic Korean Associations in Russia and the CIS on the South Korean Government’s Comments About Supplying Weapons to Ukraine [[단독] 대한민국 정부의 우크라이나 무기지원 발언에 대한 러시아 CIS 한인회 성명서 발표]”, NewsKorea, April 24, 2023,


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