SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed to expand the country’s nonlethal aid to Ukraine when he met the European country’s first lady Tuesday in Seoul.
Olena Zelenska visited South Korea as a special envoy of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. During her meeting with Yoon, Zelenska requested South Korea expand its support of nonlethal military supplies, including equipment for detecting and removing mines and ambulance vehicles, according to Yoon’s office.
Yoon replied that his government would closely coordinate with NATO and other international partners to “actively support the Ukrainian people,” his spokesperson Lee Do Woon said during a briefing.
Yoon also condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the “horrific losses of innocent lives, especially women and children, are unacceptable under any circumstances,” according to remarks shared by his office.
Lee said Zelenska made no request for South Korean weapons supplies during her conversation with Yoon.
South Korea, a growing arms exporter with a well-equipped military backed by the United States, has provided humanitarian aid and other support to Ukraine while joining U.S.-led economic sanctions against Moscow. But it has not directly provided arms to Ukraine, citing a long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to countries actively engaged in conflict.
During a visit to South Korea in January, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called for South Korea to provide direct military support to Ukraine, saying Kyiv is in urgent need of weapons to fight off the prolonged Russian invasion.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, South Korea has reached billions of dollars worth of deals to provide tanks, howitzers, fighter jets and other weapons systems to Poland, a NATO member. An American official said in November that the United States has agreed to buy 100,000 artillery rounds from South Korean manufacturers to provide to Ukraine, although South Korean officials have maintained that the munitions were meant to refill depleted U.S. stocks.