Zelenskyy entreats S. Korea to supply Ukraine with weapons in virtual speech to National Assembly

Posted on : 2022-04-12 17:20 KST Modified on : 2022-04-12 17:20 KST
The Ukrainian president delivered a speech to Korean lawmakers Monday in which he repeated Ukraine’s request for weapons provisions
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy virtually addresses the Korean National Assembly on April 11. (still from National Assembly TV)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy virtually addresses the Korean National Assembly on April 11. (still from National Assembly TV)

In his virtual speech to South Korean lawmakers Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged South Korea to send Ukraine military equipment that would help the country defend itself from Russian tanks, warships and missiles.

Addressing the South Korean National Assembly, Zelenskyy openly requested arms support that would help Ukraine “stand against Russia.” He said, “South Korea has military equipment that can counter Russian tanks, ships, and missiles and save the lives of Ukrainian citizens,” specifically asking for anti-aircraft, anti-tank, and anti-ship weapons.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US and NATO have provided the war-torn country with thousands of portable anti-tank and ground-to-air missiles. Ukraine has been using such weapons to hold back Russian tanks, helicopters and fighter planes.

Zelenskyy said in his speech, “If we receive such weapons [from South Korea], we will be able to save the lives of regular citizens, create a chance to save Ukraine, and also make sure other countries are safe from Russian attacks.”

“Please help us, South Korea,” he urged.

During his 17-minute address, Zelenskyy gave an account of Russia’s ruthless attack on his home country and the tragedy of war, appealing to South Korea as well as the international community for assistance. The video he showed at the end of his speech depicting Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine, brought a hush to the National Assembly Library’s auditorium, where South Korean lawmakers gathered for the occasion. In it, downtown Mariupol lay completely devastated by Russian attacks, while Ukrainians wailed, clutching blood-soaked bodies in their arms.

“The video was shot by a journalist who stayed in Mariupol for more than a week,” said Zelenskyy as he introduced the video, adding, “Ukrainians have been witnessing such sights every day for 48 days. Thank you in advance for watching the video, so that not only Ukraine but other countries do not experience war and Russia’s attack.”

After the video screening, Zelenskyy concluded his speech by saying, “This is all the doing of Russia. I request your help and support. Thank you.” Even the interpreter could be heard choking back tears as they relayed Zelenskyy’s final remarks.

Zelenskyy also mentioned the Korean War in his speech. Zelenskyy has garnered attention for tailoring his speeches to the UK, Italy, the US, and Germany to the historical background of each of the countries he was addressing.

On Monday, he said, “We witnessed such destruction many times in the 20th century. Citizens of the Republic of Korea, you experienced war in the 1950s, and countless civilians lost their lives [. . .] However, Korea won out. At the time, the international community offered lots of help.”

“In order to survive the war with Russia and win, we need more assistance,” Zelenskyy stressed, reiterating his request for arms support to stand against Russia.

Though Ukraine has asked South Korea for various weapons, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense has repeatedly stated that “there are limitations to supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons.” Last month, the ministry provided Ukraine with roughly 20 different non-lethal war supplies ranging from bulletproof helmets, tents, blankets, individual first aid kits, and medical supplies worth 1 billion won.

The Shingung is a portable surface-to-air missile that can be used to shoot down small helicopters and planes flying at low altitudes. (from the LIG Nex1 website)
The Shingung is a portable surface-to-air missile that can be used to shoot down small helicopters and planes flying at low altitudes. (from the LIG Nex1 website)

Ukraine sent official letters to foreign countries including South Korea requesting military and humanitarian aid early last month, which listed lethal weapons such as rifles and anti-tank missiles as items the country was requesting supplies of. Moreover, during a recent phone call between the South Korean and Ukrainian ministers of defense, Ukraine asked South Korea to support its anti-aircraft weapon system that targets enemy aircrafts such as helicopters and planes. South Korea declined the request, explaining that supplying lethal weapons was impossible under its policy.

Boo Seung-chan, the Defense Ministry’s spokesperson, stated in a regular briefing Monday morning that “an additional request for assistance concerning weapons was made by Ukraine during a phone call between the South Korean and Ukrainian defense ministers on Friday.”

Boo continued, “The Ukrainian minister asked if it was possible for [South Korea] to support [Ukraine’s] anti-aircraft weapons system,” adding, “Minister of National Defense Suh Wook explained our position that considering our security situation and potential effects on our military’s military readiness posture, lethal weapon system support for Ukraine was limited.”

During the phone call, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov reportedly did not mention a specific anti-aircraft weapon system in South Korea’s possession. The South Korean military’s anti-aircraft weapon system includes the Cheongung, a medium-range ground-to-air missile system; the Patriots; the Cheonma, a short-range ground-to-air missile system; the HAWK, a short-range ground-to-air missile system; and the Shingung, a portable ground-to-air missile system. All except the Shingung are too big in size to transport to Ukraine without difficulty. Realistically, the Shingung is considered one of the only antiaircraft weapons South Korea can provide to Ukraine.

After years of using foreign-made anti-aircraft missiles such as the Redeye, the Javelin, the Mistral, and the Igla, South Korea developed the Shingung with independent technology, integrating the system into its military starting in 2006. With a length of 1.5 meters and weighing 15 kilograms, the Shingung is light enough to be carried and used by two soldiers working in a pair. With an effective range of 5 kilometers, the Shingung is typically used to shoot down helicopters and planes flying at low altitudes.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-dae, who previously served as a lawmaker in South Korea, took to Facebook on Saturday, arguing that “it’s been confirmed that before the phone call from the Ukrainian defense minister, the US Embassy in South Korea communicated the same request [made by Ukraine] to our government multiple times.”

By Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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