Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, met with President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea on Tuesday to request nonlethal military aid, using a visit to Seoul to stress the need for “something more radical” than just humanitarian support to end Russia’s invasion of her country.
Ms. Zelenska thanked Mr. Yoon for the humanitarian and economic help that South Korea has already provided and asked for nonlethal military equipment, including tools for mine detection and removal, a spokesman for Mr. Yoon’s office, Lee Do-woon, told reporters.
Ms. Zelenska said on Telegram that she and other Ukrainian officials, including the first deputy prime minister, Yulia Svyrydenko, also discussed Ukraine’s need for stronger air-defense systems.
Mr. Yoon vowed that South Korea would coordinate with NATO and other nations to “actively support the Ukrainian people,” his spokesman said, but did not offer specific details on what that would entail.
Seoul has so far resisted calls to send its artillery shells to Ukrainian forces, who need more ammunition ahead of a long-awaited counteroffensive intended to retake Russian-occupied territory. Mr. Yoon indicated for the first time only last month that Seoul might be willing to consider sending military aid to Kyiv, telling Reuters that it would be difficult to insist exclusively on humanitarian or financial support in the event of a large-scale attack on civilians.
The South Korean president’s shift on the matter was “a wise decision,” Ms. Zelenska told the Yonhap News Agency in an interview published Tuesday.
“Indeed, when there is a criminal in the house, the owners clearly need not only humanitarian aid, food and medicine, but something more radical to drive the criminal out,” she said, adding that peace was possible only through a Ukrainian victory, not through negotiations with a “murderer who has no regrets.”
Ms. Zelenska has become a prominent emissary for her husband’s administration since becoming a wartime first lady, championing mental health recovery and children’s welfare while traveling aboard to advocate for support from Kyiv’s allies. Earlier this month, she met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain in London before attending the coronation of King Charles III.