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Another Korean man convicted of unauthorized visit to Ukraine

June 9, 2023 - 14:01 By Son Ji-hyoung

A local resident stands next to the wreckage of his car in the courtyard of an apartment building destroyed in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine. (Reuters-Yonhap)

A 27-year-old South Korean man was convicted of an unauthorized visit to war-torn Ukraine, amid a series of convictions handed down here to Korean nationals with apparent intentions to fight with Ukraine against Russia, according to a local court on Friday.

The man, whose identity remains undisclosed, was given a 3 million won ($2,314) fine for flying from Korea to Poland in March 2022, crossing the border to Ukraine a few days later and staying there for six months.

The man "intended to serve as a volunteer fighter in (Ukraine) although the ban on travel to the country was in place," which could "put excessive pressure on Korea," according to a recent ruling at a district court in Wonju, Gangwon Province.

Korea banned all Korean nationals from travelling to Ukraine on Feb. 12, 2022 ahead of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Travelling to Ukraine translates into a violation of the Passport Act in Korea. Violators may face criminal punishment of up to a one-year prison term or up to a 10 million won fine.

Earlier in April, another man, 38, was slapped with a 3 million won fine for his illegal visit to Ukraine for about a week in March 2022, in a district court ruling in Gwangju.

The ruling indicated that the man, who was accompanied by Korean Navy SEAL-turned-YouTuber Ken Rhee as a volunteer fighter in a trip to Ukraine, had not engaged in battle.

Rhee, meanwhile, is awaiting a court decision in Seoul over his Passport Act violation. The YouTuber returned Korea, reportedly due to an injury received at battle.

Another 28-year-old man was also given a 3 million won fine in March in a Seoul court ruling for visiting Ukraine for four days in March 2022. He intended to fight for Ukraine but did not.

Meanwhile, an active Korea Marine Corps soldier was sentenced to three years in prison in a military court in December 2022 after he deserted a military post he belonged to in an attempt to travel to Ukraine, but his entry was denied at the Ukrainian border.