Ken Ree, who is believed to be South Korea’s first volunteer in Ukraine’s International Legion of Territorial Defense, gave an interview to Kyiv-based NV (Novoye Vremya) magazine during which he spoke about his motivations to fight and his opinion of the combat prowess of Ukrainian soldiers.

The 38-year-old former U.S. Navy Seal and former lieutenant of South Korea’s Special Forces said he defied a government ban for citizens to volunteer for the international legion.

“If I come back alive, I will take responsibility for everything and take whatever punishment to be given. I’ll raise the status of South Korea as the country’s first volunteer soldier,” he told the Ukrainian publication on May 14.

In the interview, published by the online Russia versus the World publication, Ree said his choice to fight on Ukraine’s side was a question of “morality.”


Elaborating, he said: “I could not believe that Russia could just invade a sovereign state. In my head, I knew who the bad guys were and who the good guys were…As a former special forces operator, I have skills that can really help the military here. If I am just sitting, doing nothing and watching CNN, it will be wrong. It’s like walking down the street and seeing two guys raping a woman.”

After eight years of military service, Ree is back in combat.

He had taken part in counter-terrorist operations in Somalia in 2009-2011, and afterward, took part in combat operations in Iraq, for example.

In Ukraine, Ree said he participated in “successful missions in Irpin,” a northwestern suburb of Kyiv that has since been liberated following Russia’s all-out invasion on Feb. 24.

Subsequently, he went to fight in the southern part of the country where he was wounded during a combat mission.

The South Korean special forces soldier he found the climate “very cold” when he arrived in March.

Ree called the Ukrainian Special Forces with whom he has fought “exceptional professionals – very well-trained fighters.”


Yet he said the Ukrainian side “just go and fight, improvising,” instead of doing planning more planning for missions.

This conflict is a “world war,” he added, because “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.”

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