South Korea Turns Away Russians Fleeing Draft by Boat

South Korea Turns Away Russians Fleeing Draft by Boat

While Russian nationals are permitted to enter South Korea without visas, officials are allowed to deny them entry on other grounds.

The majority of Russians heading to South Korea by boat in hopes of avoiding being conscripted for the war in Ukraine are being denied entry, NBC News reported on Sunday. 

According to South Korean coast guard records, five boats carrying twenty-three people reached the East Asian nation. An Ho-young, a lawmaker with the country’s opposition Democratic Party, confirmed that all of the Russian nationals applied for tourist visas, but twenty-one of them were denied approval due to “insufficient documentation and unclear objective" for entering South Korea.

The two Russians who were able to secure visas possessed documents showing records of having previously been in the country.

“It is likely that Korea is becoming an intermediate stopover as more people attempt to escape Russia,” An said, adding that Russian nationals are allowed visa-free entry into South Korea, but immigration officials can deny permission.

An also noted that it was “urgent” for the government to come up with measures to better handle a potential influx of Russians trying to enter the country, including “dedicated procedures for handling what could turn into a diplomatic and human rights issue.”

An acknowledged that Coast Guard records revealed that one boat with Russian nationals is still docked in the city of Pohang after a patrol boat discovered it at sea last Tuesday. The four people on board were denied entry.

“The Russian visitors went through a regular routine immigration process like everybody else, and those denied of entry to South Korea were because they did not meet the visa requirements and regulations,” a South Korean Justice Ministry spokesperson said, per NBC News.

“Anyone wishing to enter South Korean territory must provide at least the ETA [Electronic Travel Authorization], KETA [Korea Electronic Travel Authorization] or other forms of visa, but those Russian visitors denied entry failed to provide any forms of entry visa,” the spokesperson added.

Last month, after facing heavy military losses, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a “partial military mobilization” to bolster his forces with an additional 300,000 soldiers. Shortly after the announcement, thousands of Russian men of fighting age scrambled to leave the country, with many pouring into neighboring countries like Georgia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan.

In an address on Saturday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy estimated that nearly 65,000 Russians have been killed in the ongoing war, The Hill reported

“So many citizens of Russia gave their lives for the possibility of a handful of people in the Kremlin to ignore reality,” he said, adding that not even the deaths of 100,000 Russians will “prompt the Kremlin to think a little bit.”

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters