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Ukrainian community in S. Korea voices anxieties over Russian aggression back home

All News 22:53 February 24, 2022

By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- Ukrainians living in South Korea voiced frustration and anxieties after Russia attacked their homeland in defiance of global warnings and pleas for a peaceful resolution, praying for the safety of their families back home.

Various news articles and posts about the Russian invasion have made the rounds on Ukrainian online communities in South Korea, including on "Ukrainians in Korea," a Facebook page of Ukrainian workers and students living in South Korea, since the news of Russian troops attacking eastern Ukraine.

While searching for ways of uniting with compatriots during the time of national crisis, Ukrainians opened a joint online chat room to discuss ways to express their concerns, including discussing holding a street protest in Seoul to cry out against Russia's aggression.

Juliet Goncharenko, a Ukrainian who works for a 3D graphics and animation company in Korea, told Yonhap News Agency via Facebook she became extremely concerned for the safety of her family in Zhytomyr, 120 kilometers west of the capital of Kiev, after learning her parents were woken up in the morning by the sound of explosions.

"We got information that the airport in our city was destroyed by Russians. Right now people are in panic, trying to buy food," Goncharenko, 28, said, after her latest conversation with her family in Ukraine.

Alina Shymanska, a Ukrainian Ph. D. candidate-researcher at Seoul National University's political science and international relations department, also shared concerns over the distress of her family back home.

This file photo provided by Alina Shymanska (bottom row, C), a Ukrainian Ph. D. candidate-researcher at South Korea's Seoul National University, shows a photo of her Ukrainian parents, and South Korean husband and in-laws, at her wedding held in Seongnam, south of Seoul, in 2016. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Shymanska, 30, said she came to South Korea in 2014 during Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine and has since settled here, having married a South Korean non-commissioned military officer.

The last time she saw her parents was in October of 2019 in Zhytomyr, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, expressing wishes to bring her parents here, despite it being impossible at the moment, as airports have all been closed.

"My parents-in-law in Korea have especially been worried for the safety of my parents," Shymanska said, adding her fellow students at school have also been emotionally supportive of her during the Ukrainian crisis.

Julia Shmuliak, who came to South Korea 10 years ago initially for her master's degree studies at Sogang University in Seoul, said she had remained largely skeptical about the possibility of Russia launching a full-blown attack on her homeland, until she learned of the military operations Thursday.

The mother of two children said she had family members and friends in western Ukraine helping evacuees relocate to safe places. She also hoped South Korea was open to accepting potential refugees from Ukraine in the future.

Shmuliak expressed her wish for South Korea's government to "react strongly with sanctions and restrictions" against Russian businesses, hoping South Korea remembers its own painful history of occupation by imperial Japan during World War II.

Shmuliak added she, together with her kids, plans to participate in a street protest that is being discussed among fellow Ukrainians here.

Shymanska also shared a similar view.

"Ukraine has always been at the center of the geopolitical power struggle between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Russia. South Korea could also someday find itself being stuck between a conflict between powers," Shymanska said, as she urged Seoul to get more engaged in sanctions against Moscow.

President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that South Korea will join international sanctions against Russia as he expressed regret over Russia's attack on Ukraine, saying any use of armed force causing human casualties cannot be justified.

The Seoul foreign ministry said it has been in consultations with the United States and other nations to prepare details of the export control packages, making first such comments on sanctions after Russian forces mounted military operations on Ukraine.

This undated file photo provided by Julia Shmuliak, a Ukrainian currently living in South Korea, shows a family picture taken in Ukraine. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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