Despite a Series of Sanctions and Condemnation of Russia, South Korea Is Nowhere To Be Seen

On Feb. 22, the United States imposed the first sanctions on two Russian state-run banks, subsidiaries and aides to President Vladimir Putin, holding Russia responsible for the invasion of Ukraine. The plan is to block the money chain by blocking Russia from the international financial market. The White House said, “The decision was made after discussion with our allies and partners from the European Union, from the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Australia.”* Earlier, Germany announced the suspension of Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline project with Russia, while Australia and Japan announced plans to impose sanctions against Russia yesterday.

As such, one after another, countries are condemning Russia and joining in sanctions, but Korea is nowhere to be seen. The South Korean government only came up with the principle that a peaceful solution should be sought. It has not condemned Russia, and only said that it is “open to the possibility” of joining in the sanctions. President Moon Jae-in said, “We must ensure that the situation in Ukraine does not negatively affect the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” only worrying about the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Some critics say that South Korea has been busy appeasing North Korea and China and is now walking on eggshells around Russia.

This passive attitude is said to be due to concerns over the damage that Korean companies will suffer, but the disappearance of Korean diplomacy is more worrisome. The U.S. sanctions include a ban on the export to Russia of all products containing U.S. technology. In other words, exports of Korean semiconductors, electronic products and automobiles are blocked. South Korea has no way of escaping the U.S. sanctions, since the U.S. also sanctions third-party countries that have violated such sanctions. Even if South Korea refuses to participate, it will have to bite the bullet. Yet, it remains silent.

Diplomatic actions should be prudent. However, if Korea keeps its mouth shut and remain passive, it will only lead to the disappointment and distrust of the international community and South Korea’s allies. The government always emphasizes that it is a responsible member of the international community. However, there is no place for Korean diplomacy to stand when it loses international trust. Ukraine’s foreign minister appealed to countries that condemn but do not take action against Russia, saying, “[C]ondemnations are important, but it’s actions that really matter now, these days.” There is no guarantee that South Korea will be in a position to remain passive in the future.

*Editor’s Note: This quote, though accurately translated, could not be verified.

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