Injured South Korean fighter returning from Ukraine faces investigation

SEOUL: A South Korean volunteer fighter returned home from Ukraine on Friday (May 27) saying he had to recover from his injuries and was ready to face a police investigation on suspicion of breaking the law by defying a government ban to travel to Ukraine.

Volunteers from around the world have flocked to Ukraine to help it fight the Russian forces that invaded on February 24. Russia calls its action in Ukraine a “special operation.”

Rhee Keun, a former member of the South Korean naval special forces, also known as Ken Rhee, flew back to South Korea, and the media broadcast his return live on television.

“I haven’t left the battlefield completely, but I came here to recover from my injuries. I want to go back…because the war is not over, there is still a lot to do,” Rhee said at the airport.

Rhee said he was suffering from a cruciate ligament injury in both legs. He managed to walk.

He said about 10 policemen had been waiting for him when he got off the plane and told him to self-quarantine for a week as a COVID-19 precaution, and then they would call him in for questioning.

“I will cooperate in the investigation,” he said.

A police spokesman was not immediately available for comment. A military spokesman confirmed that Rhee had served in the Marine Special Forces.

Rhee posted photos and videos of her experience in Ukraine on social media.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry filed a police complaint against him in mid-March, shortly after he went to Ukraine, on charges of violating a passport law.

South Korea banned its citizens from traveling to Ukraine in February for security reasons. Under the law, those who defy a ban can be jailed for up to a year or fined 10 million won (US$8,000).

Rhee said Ukraine had offered him citizenship and even land, but he refused.

“I don’t think it’s right to take citizenship to avoid a fine or a lawsuit,” he said.

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