Tuesday 19 September 2023

Kyiv’s K-Support: South Korean Military Aid To Ukraine

South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan have all faced constraints that hinder their desire to provide military assistance to Ukraine. In Japan's case, it's primarily due to stringent laws prohibiting the export of military equipment. [1] Meanwhile, South Korea's hesitation stems from concerns that providing military support to Ukraine might prompt Russia to increase its military and technological assistance to North Korea. From March 2022 onward, South Korea delivered four shipments of non-lethal military aid to Ukraine, amounting to approximately €3 million in value. [2] This aid has included equipment like helmets, bulletproof vests, and mine detectors. Notably, some of this equipment was originally intended for the Afghan Army but was redirected to Ukraine in 2022 following the fall of Kabul in 2021.
Despite numerous appeals from Ukraine for the provision of weapon systems like surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and ATGMs, South Korea has declined these requests on each occasion. [3] At the Korea-Ukraine summit in Kyiv in July 2023, South Korean President Yoon mentioned the provision of ''a larger scale of military support this year''. However, a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesperson was quick to reaffirm the government's official stance, emphasising that providing lethal weaponry remains out of the question and stating, ''There is no change in our policy of not supporting lethal weapons''. [4] The specifics of President Yoon's commitment to providing increased support came to light in September 2023 when the South Korean government revealed their donation of two K600 combat engineering vehicles (CEVs). Designed with the purpose of clearing pathways through minefields on the frontline, the Yoon administration nevertheless requested that Ukraine deploy these vehicles exclusively for humanitarian missions. 
In fact, South Korea's most significant contribution to Ukraine's plight has not been a direct delivery but rather the transfer of 550,000 155mm artillery rounds to the United States in 2022 and 2023. [5] This transfer enabled the United States to provide Ukraine with ammunition from its own stockpile. Another noteworthy contribution from South Korea involved the delivery of 100 SsangYong Musso pickup trucks and 5 DOOSAN DX17Z mini excavators designated for humanitarian use. [6] Whether South Korea will maintain its policy of restricting military aid remains uncertain, especially in light of North Korea's growing rapport with Russia, which may prompt South Korea to reconsider its approach to Ukraine. If such a shift occurs, it could potentially open the door to the availability of various Korean-made weapon systems for Ukraine. South Korea also possesses several Russian weapons systems, such as the T-80U MBT, BMP-3 IFV, Metis ATGM, and Igla MANPADS, which undoubtedly pique Ukraine's interest as well.
The following list attempts to keep track of military aid given to Ukraine by the Government of the Republic of Korea during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The entries below are sorted by category. Private and corporate donations are not included in this list. This list will be updated as further support is declared.

Engineering Vehicles


Military Gear

  • Helmets [Delivered since March 2022]
  • Bulletproof Vests [Before July 2023]
  • Military Uniforms [Delivered since March 2022]
  • Mine Detectors [Before July 2023]
  •  Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Suits [Before July 2023]
  • Gas Masks [Before July 2023]

Miscellaneous Items

  • Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) [Delivered since March 2022]
  • First-Aid Kits [Delivered since March 2022]
  • Tents [Delivered since March 2022]
  • Blankets [Delivered since March 2022]
[1] Aid From Asia: Japan’s Military Support To Ukraine https://www.oryxspioenkop.com/2022/09/aid-from-asia-japans-military-support.html
[2] S.Korea to Send 2 Minesweepers to Ukraine https://english.chosun.com/m/svc/article.html?contid=2023091801396 
[3] LIG넥스원에 주한우크라이나 대사 방문 타진...천궁·신궁 요청 목적 관측 https://www.ajunews.com/view/20220415114737523 
[4] 한국, 우크라에 지뢰 제거기 제공…“살상무기는 지원 안 한다” https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/politics/politics_general/1100507.html
[5] [양낙규의 Defence Club]탄 빌려간 미국 ‘성능개량 탄’으로 돌려주나  https://www.asiae.co.kr/article/2023061509184626149
[6] South Korea provided Ukraine with pickups and excavators https://mil.in.ua/en/news/south-korea-provided-ukraine-with-pickups-and-excavators/ 
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Aid From Asia: Japan’s Military Support To Ukraine