As West condemns Russian election, Seoul opts to forgo comment

Posted on : 2024-03-20 16:52 KST Modified on : 2024-03-20 16:52 KST
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said its position was to refrain from comment on the recent election, and that it would make considerations of “appropriateness” in regard to a possible congratulatory cable to Putin
A man places his vote in the ballot box at a polling station in Donetsk, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, on March 17, 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)
A man places his vote in the ballot box at a polling station in Donetsk, in Russian-occupied Ukraine, on March 17, 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)

The South Korean government avoided direct comment in its response to the recent Russian presidential election, which ended in a landslide victory for incumbent Vladimir Putin.

Instead, it stressed that the two sides “have a shared commitment to managing our mutual relationship.” Its position showed subtle differences from the response by the US, the European Union, and other countries in the West that strongly condemned the election as “undemocratic.”

When asked by a reporter Tuesday for Seoul’s position on the Russian presidential election, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said, “Our basic position is that we are refraining from comment on the recent election in Russia.”

When asked if the administration planned to send a congratulatory cable in response to Putin’s reelection, the official said only that there would be “considerations of the appropriateness and so forth.”

At the same time, Seoul did criticize the collection of votes from regions of Ukraine that were occupied by Russia following its invasion — including Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — calling this a “violation of international law.”

The diplomatic official said, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a violation of the UN Charter and international law, and the administration’s basic position is that Ukraine’s sovereignty and the preservation and independence of its territory must be respected.”

The US and the countries of Europe have been outspoken already in condemning the Russian presidential election as “unfair.”

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on Saturday that Putin’s election win was “unsurprising” and that the process itself was “obviously neither free nor fair.”

In a message posted on the social media site X (formerly known as Twitter), the German Federal Foreign Office wrote, “The pseudo-election in #Russia is neither free nor fair, [and] the result will surprise nobody.”

“Putin's rule is authoritarian, [and] he relies on censorship, repression & violence,” it continued.

Also on X, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron wrote, “The polls have closed in Russia, following the illegal holding of elections on [occupied] Ukrainian territory, a lack of choice for voters and no independent OSCE monitoring,” referring to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. 

“This is not what free and fair elections look like,” he said.

The South Korean government’s avoidance of open criticism of Russia’s presidential election, in contrast with the countries of the West, showed a different look from President Yoon Suk-yeol’s past emphasis on “freedom” and remarks about battling “communist totalitarian dictatorship.”

Its response appeared to reflect consideration of security concerns amid the recent rapid bolstering of closeness and military cooperation between Russia and North Korea, along with the practical pressures that Russia has been ratcheting up with measures such as Russian intelligence authorities’ detention of a South Korean missionary on espionage charges.

By Park Min-hee, senior staff writer

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Most viewed articles