SEOUL: A former South Korean Navy SEAL turned YouTuber who risked jail time to leave Seoul and fight for Ukraine says it would have been a “crime” not to use his skills to help.
Ken Rhee, an ex-special warfare officer, signed up at the Ukrainian Embassy in Seoul the moment President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for global volunteers and was fighting on the front lines near Kyiv by early March.
To get there, he had to break South Korean law – Seoul banned its citizens from travelling to Ukraine, and Rhee, who was injured in a fall while leading a special operations patrol there, was met at the airport by 15 police officers on his return.
But the celebrity ex-soldier, who has a YouTube channel with 700,000 followers and documented much of his Ukraine experience on his popular Instagram account, says he has no regrets.
“You’re walking down the beach and you see a sign by the water saying ‘no swimming’ – but you see someone drowning. It’s a crime not to help. That’s how I see it,” he told the Media.
Rhee was born in South Korea but raised in the United States. He attended the Virginia Military Institute and planned to join the US Navy SEALS, but his father – a “patriot”, he says – convinced his son to return to South Korea to enlist.
He served for seven years, undergoing both US and Korean SEAL training and doing multiple stints in war zones in Somalia and Iraq before leaving to set up a defense consultancy.
“I have the skillset. I have the experience. I was in two different wars, and going to Ukraine, I knew I could help,” the former South Korean Naval SEAL turned YouTuber said, adding that he viewed breaking South Korea’s passport law to leave as equivalent to a “traffic violation”.
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