Part 1 of 2: Korea’s rejection of Zelenskyy’s request for lethal aid
1. When Putin began a war of aggression against Ukraine, some Korean politicians, including liberals of outgoing President Moon (and his party's presidential candidate, who lost), began calling Zelenskyy a "comedian who put his own country at risk by reckless and unexperiencend leadership." Unsurprising Zelenskyy’s request for weapons was turned down — South Korea under President Moon has an official policy against lethal arms deliveries. For the average South Korean, access to sea delicacies from Russia has absolute priority over a war in Ukraine.
The fact that South Korea despite having legitmate security concerns at their border is still sanctioning Russia and following the US's lead in most cases, should be commended. Any nation that borders someone who Russia can influence in a damaging way has legitimate concerns. Israel too has refrained from shipping Ukraine weapons and they depend on US military more than any other nation in the world.
2. Countries are not like people. You certainly can argue that Korea, cannot afford to completely turn their back on Russia — given that certain countries in Europe, like Germany, are still buying and paying for Russian gas. South Korea can deter Russia if it wanted to; but it takes leadership that is not present under President Moon Jae-in. Korea’s President Moon is as much a failure as Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
(a) Vietnam and India, for example are major weapons importers, with ties that can’t be easily cut. But South Korea is not Vietnam, a poor communist country that has an export orientation that needs Russian weapons. South Korea has a bigger army than Russia. It has much better weapons than Russia; and a military industrial complex that the Indians can dream about but never acquire. On 31 Mar 2022, the Indian Express asked in an article: "Which will better spur India’s military modernisation: Continued dependence on Russian weaponry or strengthening security partnerships through the Quad and perhaps Europe?"
(b) Except for the 24 countries like Iran, North Korea, Laos, & Vietnam who voted against the UN resolution, many Asian and African countries have abstained. They are very concerned about Russian war crimes and are willing to wait a little, for investigations to develop on civilians murdered in Bucha, before they move forward with another UN vote when the evidence is presented. I expect that for the battles to come in Apr/May 2022, there will be another 100,000 civilian deaths. 100,000 civilian deaths is what the British lost, in WWII, at the home front, in total (including Merchant Navy deaths from the Battle of the Atlantic and the German air raids).
South Korea is a major partner for Russian in electronics including military and space tech. South Korea has involved Russian firms in domestic defense developments, operates Russian military equipment, and even partners with Russia for its domestic space program.
3. Is the framing as ‘a major partner’ in ‘military and space tech’ correct? Korea, as an American ally, makes its own K-2 MBTs, K-21 IFVs, tracked K-9 SPHs, K239 Chunmoo MLRS, helicopters, SAM systems, SSMs, core tech like insensitive munitions and has its own Nuri liquid-fuelled rocket (as a first domestically built space launch vehicle in Oct 2021).
(a) IMO, Korea is much less reliant on Russian weapons or space technology — rather it is Russia that needs the Korean made electronic sub-components for their weapons. For example, after 2014, the Russians have substituted some western components on their UAVs with South Korean and Chinese-made IR matrix photodetectors. In the area of space tech reliance, on 30 Mar 2022, South Korea's military said it had successfully test-fired a solid-fuel space rocket for the first time. The Mar 2022 test verified the large solid-fuel engine, fairing separation, stage separation, and upper-stage attitude control technology, which are essential technologies for space launch vehicles, the Korean statement added.
(b) You well know that your view of alleged Russian influence is skewed in a manner that makes a mountain out of a molehill — given that Russia is often hostile to Korea and Russian military aircraft often intrudes into the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ). In Jul 2019, South Korea's military said that in total 3 Russian and 2 Chinese military aircraft entered the KADIZ. South Korea said one of the Russian planes — the A-50 — flew beyond the KADIZ and entered the country's territorial airspace. South Korea said it fired 10 flares and warning 80 rounds during the alleged first violation. It also said the Russian plane then left before circling back round again, when it was met by 10 more South Korean flares and 280 warning rounds.
(c) Engaging in disinformation warfare after the 26 Mar 2010 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan (in which 46 sailors were killed), a Russian Navy source said, “after examining the available evidence and the ship wreckage Russian experts came to the conclusion that a number of arguments produced by the international investigation in favour of the DPRK's involvement in the corvette sinking were not weighty enough.”
4. Secondary sanctions is a major concern for Korean chaebols. South Korean tech company Samsung Electronics said:
- It’s shipments to Russia have been suspended ‘due to current geopolitical developments’
- Samsung is also donating US$6 million to ‘actively support humanitarian efforts’ and refugees in Ukraine.
5. On 1 April 2022, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook said that the country’s military has the “ability and readiness to conduct a precision strike against the launch site and command and support facilities if there is a clear sign of [North Korean] missile launch.”
(a) Next day, in response to South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook’s comment, Kim Yo-Jong, Deputy Department Director of the Publicity and Information Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, warned that North Korea is a nuclear armed state and South Korea without nuclear weapons is no match by stating that Defense Minister Suh Wook “dare mentioned the preemptive strike at a nuclear weapons state, in his senseless bluster.
(b) Two days later, she threatened South Korea in her statement that says “The South Korean military will have to face a miserable fate little short of total destruction and ruin.” IMHO, war, if it comes to North East Asia, will dwarf the number of civilian deaths, and scale of the murders in Ukraine.