May 23, 2023
SEOUL – The South Korean government has initiated a review to select nonlethal military aid and equipment to send to Ukraine, a military official with knowledge of the matter confirmed Monday.
The related government agencies, including the Defense Ministry, have commenced a working-level process following the first in-person meeting between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The meeting took place on Sunday in Hiroshima, Japan on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit.
“We will actively explore options for areas where we can provide support, including mine clearance equipment and emergency transport vehicles,” Defense Ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyu said Monday during a televised regular news briefing. “We will be able to provide more detailed explanations, including specific items, once we further flesh out our plans.”
Ukraine has reportedly asked South Korea to provide mine clearance equipment, emergency transport vehicles, armored ambulances, mobile X-ray devices and air defense radars, The Korea Herald has learned.
South Korea has not finalized its list of non-lethal military equipment that the country can supply to Ukraine. But the country sees that it ought to provide mine clearance equipment and emergency transport vehicles, the military source, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Korea Herald.
Zelenskyy also said via Twitter on Sunday that he looks forward to continued cooperation in particular for mine clearance vehicles after having met Yoon.
South Korean defense contractors have independently developed vehicles and equipment to remove millions of landmines along the heavily fortified inter-Korean border.
There is a high possibility of providing the South Korean Army’s K600 minefield breaching vehicles and PRS-20K portable mine detectors to Ukraine, South Korea’s state-affiliated Yonhap News Agency and other local media reported Monday.
But the official noted that the supply of these items would require discussions with the South Korean Army.
Yoon confirmed that South Korea would thoroughly review the list of nonlethal military equipment requested by Zelenskyy, during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Seoul on Sunday evening.
Yoon also emphasized that the government will prioritize reviewing the provision of mine clearance equipment and medical ambulances, which were specifically requested by Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, during her meeting with Yoon in Seoul on May 16. The urgency of the supply is underscored by the significant civilian casualties resulting from mine-laying by Russian forces during their retreat from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
South Korea maintains the basic stance that it is challenging to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine considering the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The Ministry of National Defense, however, has demonstrated its commitment by providing nonlethal military supplies on three different occasions, amounting to a value of approximately 4.8 billion won ($3.64 million) last year. These supplies have included combat rations, protective clothing, gas masks and their canisters, as well as medical equipment.