With the threat of Russian involvement in Ukraine, South Korea banned its citizens from traveling there in early February. However, that hasn’t stopped some of their citizens from making their way into the active war zone as volunteer soldiers.
Most notably, veteran and YouTuber, Ken Rhee, among others, made their way into the country to help fight Russian forces. Rhee is a former member of The Republic of Korea Navy Special Warfare Flotilla, the South Korean equivalent of Navy SEALs.
For traveling without permission, Rhee could be subject to fines, loss of his passport, or even jail time, if convicted. He has stated he will confess, if and when he is able to return home. In addition, the country could ban him from re-entering and prevent him from obtaining a new passport as a South Korean citizen.
His mission, however, remains strong: to help the people of Ukraine and to help defend their territory from Russian forces. He brings prior special opps knowledge to the table, while volunteering on this seemingly unstructured mission.
Rhee served with the Korean Special Warfare for eight years, before joining an exchange program where he came to the U.S. to work with Navy SEALs. Rhee completed BUD/s training and remained with the American unit for two years before returning to South Korea to work as an instructor.
Rhee, 37, said initially he and others attempted to travel with South Korean permission, but there was much pushback. Instead, the crew of four left of their own means.
Rhee has not named his travel companions. He continues to post updates on Instagram, including calling out the South Korean government to help.
“My team has arrived safely in Ukraine. Rather than waste time seeking to invalidate our passports, think about how you can support,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
In his posts, he has also cited the past as additional motivation. Specifically, other countries’ help in the Korean war; now it’s their chance to pay it back, and pay it forward. Besides, he said, it’s just the right thing to do.
Based on Rhee’s social media posts, it also looks like he traveled with his own gear. He and three others officially landed on March 7th.