May 17, 2023
SEOUL – Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska called for “more radical” support to push back against Russia’s war in the country, saying a visit to her country by its friends like President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon Hee would rally Ukrainians.
“Indeed, when there is a criminal in the house, the owners clearly need not only humanitarian aid, food and medicine, but something more radical to drive the criminal out,” she said in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency released Tuesday, calling on the international community to provide “a resource.”
Zelenska, who did not elaborate on what such a resource would entail, lauded Yoon’s decision to provide arms aid to Kyiv should the war prompt a humanitarian crisis. The conditional offer, which the Korean leader first publicly made last month, led Russia to warn Korea of making a “hostile anti-Russian act.”
Seoul, which last year ruled out weapon support and has since been providing nonmilitary support, is a “model of resilience and development” for Ukrainians, according to Zelenska.
She described Yoon and first lady Kim as friends to Ukraine that it is waiting to meet. “Such a visit would be very supportive to Ukrainians because it is a way to share our confrontation,” Zelenska said, if even for only a day.
Countries should also pay attention to fallout from the war, like spillover violence in Kyiv, the first lady noted, suggesting potential peace deals that would bring closure should lead to the punishment of those responsible for having started the war.
“It is impossible to shake hands with the hand that has just killed your relatives and neighbors. You cannot sit down at the negotiating table with a murderer who has no regrets,” Zelenska said. “We know from history what happens when the aggressor is not punished. … Everyone should be interested in stopping him. … It is the same as stopping street crime before it reaches your street.”
This is not the first time Zelenska has openly called on Korea to provide weapons support for Ukraine. The first lady said last year that Seoul should be able to understand what it is like to be living with a neighbor that routinely makes threats to use nuclear weapons, referring to North Korea — a country defying international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Korea declined to reveal when the first lady, who arrived in Seoul on Monday, would return to Kyiv.