Korean YouTuber fighting war in Ukraine suffers injuries, expects to get arrested at home

Published May 17, 2022, 8:28 AM

by Jonathan Hicap

A former Korean Navy SEAL and YouTuber who went to Ukraine in March to fight the war against Russia announced that he was injured and said he expects that he will be arrested when he returns to his country.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Lt. Ken Rhee, 37, and his two companions arrived in Ukraine on March 7. He announced on March 6 that he was leaving South Korea to be a volunteer soldier in Ukraine.

Korean Lt. Ken Rhee in Ukraine (Instagram)

Korean Lt. Ken Rhee (right) in Ukraine (YouTube)

Ken Rhee runs the YouTube channel Rokseal [Republic of Korea SEAL] and is a founder of the military consulting firm Rokseal. His bio on the company website listed Rhee as UDT/Seal Platoon Commander of Special Missions Unit, Seal Delivery Vehicle Unit and Naval Special Warfare Center; private military contractor, DOS security investigator, United Nations security officer and Rokseal founder.

He also appeared on Korean TV programs including “Fake Men” and “Radio Star.”

Ken Rhee is fighting in Ukraine as part of the International Legion of Defence of Ukraine.

On May 15, the ROKSEAL YouTube channel posted that Ken Rhee was injured in Ukraine and underwent an operation.

“Lt. Ken Rhee recently incurred injuries while leading a special reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines. He has been transferred to a military hospital following the successful operation. We will keep you posted,” according to the announcement.

In South Korea, Ken Rhee is facing imprisonment, fine and cancellation of his passport for violating the government travel ban to Ukraine.

The Korean government imposed a Level 4 restriction (travel ban) for all Korean nationals from going to Ukraine starting on Feb. 13 due to the war.

Rhee went to Ukraine without the Korean government’s permission. According to a post by Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if a Korean national goes to Ukraine without permission, he will be subjected to criminal punishment and administrative sanctions for violating the country’s passport law.

If found guilty, Rhee may be imprisoned for up to one year or subjected to a fine of 10 million won ($8.249).

Ken Rhee was interviewed by the media outlet The New Voice of Ukraine in which he detailed his status in Ukraine and the prospects of him being arrested when he returns to South Korea.

He said he came to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russia.

“Everyone has a reason to come to Ukraine. For me, this is absolutely a matter of morality. I saw on TV what was happening here, I could not believe that Russia could just invade a sovereign state. In my head, I knew who were the bad guys and who were the good guys,” he said.

He said his mother is worried that he is in Ukraine, saying, “However, it is important for me to be here, even if my family does not agree with me – to help locals and the military.”

Ken Rhee said Ukraine reminded him of the history of South and North Korea.

“For a foreigner, at first glance, people seem to have a lot in common, such as similar language and appearance. But these are different countries that have always been at war with each other,” he said.

Ken Rhee said there are a few Koreans who are in Ukraine to fight the war.

“But there are few Koreans here: I think it’s me and maybe a few other guys right now. There have been about ten of them since the beginning of the war. Many Ukrainians are still surprised to see an Asian, because it is a very rare phenomenon,” he said.

He said that “if Ukraine does not win the war, any neighboring country that opposes Russia or tries to join NATO will be in danger. Russia will continue to attack, and it will never end. Therefore, I believe that this war is, in a sense, a world war.”

“It is clear that one day I will have to return home to reboot – get better equipment, better prepare and come back here again. To continue to do what I do until Ukraine wins,” he said.

Ken Rhee said if he returns to South Korea, he will be arrested at the airport.

“The problem is that my stay in Ukraine is considered illegal at home. Each country has different laws, and the Korean ones are very strange,” he said.

He added, “Therefore, I think that when I return, they will try to arrest me at the airport only for participating in this war. I plan to receive several letters from the Ukrainian government, and I hope they will help me in court. I already have a lawyer. But even though I run the risk of being imprisoned, I still believe I made the right decision. I am happy to be here to change the situation and work with Ukrainians.”