South Korea’s Yoon Inks Major Reconstruction Deals with Ukraine – Potentially Elbowing Out China

south koreas yoon inks major reconstruction deals with ukraine potentially elbowing out china
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol made a surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, this weekend, resulting in major agreements for Korean companies to participate in building railways, airports, and a “smart city” in Ukraine after the culmination of the ongoing Russian invasion.

Ukraine’s “urban redevelopment” post-war, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily, is estimated to be worth about $1.58 trillion. The presence of Korean corporate giants such as Hyundai and Samsung may reduce the percentage of those potential profits available to competing states, most prominently China, a core Russian ally that has expressed enthusiasm for aiding the reconstruction of Ukraine and one which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has personally invited into the country to help rebuild. Ukraine joined China’s predatory Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, in 2017.

south koreas yoon inks major reconstruction deals with ukraine potentially elbowing out china

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on November 25, 2018. (Mykhailo Markiv, Presidential Press Service via AP)

While hoping “Chinese businesses” invest in his country, however, Zelensky has defied the conventional wisdom in Ukrainian politics and acted with skepticism towards China in the past, most prominently when he sanctioned the Chinese company Beijing Skyrizon Aviation in 2021 for its attempts to seize the Ukrainian jet engine and military manufacturer Motor Sich. Zelensky also nationalized Motor Sich to keep it out of Chinese hands prior to the most recent Russian invasion.

Motor Sich is now a supplier of engines to the Turkish company Baykar, which manufactures the Bayraktar armored drones that Ukraine has prioritized in its defense against Russia in the ongoing invasion.

south koreas yoon inks major reconstruction deals with ukraine potentially elbowing out china

Chairman of the board of the Turkish Technology Team Selcuk Bayraktar poses for a photo with unmanned combat aircraft, Bayraktar Kizilelma, during the TEKNOFEST Black Sea 2022. (Mehmet Eser/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Yoon, a conservative, has repeatedly outraged China with a policy that emphasizes closer ties to America, Japan, and the greater West and a more aggressive stance against North Korea, a communist rogue state that routinely threatens to bomb South Korea. The Chinese state-run communist propaganda newspaper Global Times expressed irritation with the warm reception that Zelensky gave Yoon in Kyiv on Saturday, predicting that “Seoul’s ties with Beijing may become tense” and accusing Yoon of selfishly seeking “a piece of the pie during future post-war reconstruction in Ukraine” for his country.

Yoon and First Lady Kim Keon-hee took a 14-hour train ride out of Poland – where the president engaged in a visit following last week’s NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania – to reach Kyiv on Saturday. In addition to the capital, Yoon and Kim visited the towns of Bucha and Irpin, sites of grave war atrocities struggling to rebuild after brief Russian occupations and battles for return to Kyiv’s control.

Zelensky thanked Yoon for making the surprise trip to his country and visiting some of its most devastated communities.

“Meetings and the mutual understanding achieved created the emotional connection that helps us understand each other very quickly now during the negotiations,” Zelensky said during the visit. “And I am especially glad that you are in Ukraine with the First Lady of the Republic of Korea.”

Zelensky noted that the scale of destruction in areas of Ukraine no longer seeing active hostilities required “huge” global cooperation.

South Korea has refused to offer Ukraine lethal weapons, but greatly expanded other support promises this weekend. Yoon announced $150 million in humanitarian aid for the country in addition to non-lethal military aid such as mine detectors and equipment to remove mines, as well as first-aid equipment for those on the front lines and protective suits, according to the South Korean news service Yonhap. South Korea would also reportedly invest in Ukraine’s education system through rebuilding schools and offering school supplies.

“This is also the rebuilding of infrastructure in Ukraine: schools, hospitals, housing, enterprises, everything destroyed by Russian missiles and enemy artillery. Thank you for your willingness to support our education system,” Zelensky told Yoon, according to his presidential office. “We need a new large-scale rehabilitation industry. I invited the Republic of Korea to show leadership in creating rehabilitation centers in Ukraine.”

“Of course, we also discussed economic cooperation — this includes energy, railways, and transport in general, the creation of production facilities in Ukraine, local content, as well as the macro-financial sphere,” Zelensky continued. “We definitely have something to do together in each of these areas.”

RELATED VIDEO — Zelensky Releases Movie Trailer-Style Video Marking One Year Anniversary of War in Ukraine:

Volodymyr Zelensky via Storyful

In both Ukraine and Poland, where Yoon and a business delegation from Korea stopped prior to the Kyiv visit, South Korean companies signed agreements for post-war reconstruction. Among the largest, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily, was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which Hyundai Engineering & Construction, a subsidiary of the motor company, agreed to rebuild the largest airport in Ukraine, the Boryspil International Airport.

“In addition to the MOU with Boryspil International Airport Corporation, Hyundai E&C also plans to enter fields including high-speed railways, national infrastructure, and energy-related projects,” JoongAng noted.

Samsung, a global household name and one of South Korea’s largest corporations, also reportedly signed an agreement to “build a smart city in Lviv,” western Ukraine, where a Russian airstrike blew out the windows of a Samsung office in October. Samsung would reportedly work with the Turkish construction company Onur on the project.

“The concept of a smart city integrates urban infrastructure with advanced information and communication technology to enhance the overall quality of life for residents,” JoongAng reported.

“Ukraine’s vision extends beyond ‘rebuilding’ or mere recovery from war damage, but involves enhancing the national system, or ‘new building,’” President Yoon’s Senior Economic Secretary Choi Sang-mok said last week.

China’s state media arms reacted to the news of multiple Korean-Ukrainian joint projects with sour grapes, taking particular offense at Yoon’s comparison between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the communist North Korean invasion of the South in the last century.

“This time Yoon’s unexpected visit and high-profile pledge of military aid to Ukraine indicates that Seoul has completely taken sides with the US-led NATO amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” the newspaper’s “experts” said.

“Notably, in the press conference on Saturday, Yoon began his statement with an analogy between the Korean War (1950-53) and the Ukraine crisis,” the Global Times noted, insisting the two situations are “not comparable.”

“The Korean War resulted from the Cold War. When both North and South Korea wanted to unify the peninsula, under the interference of the US, the Korean War broke out,” the Global Times claimed. In reality, the communists chose to invade South Korea with the goal of unifying the peninsula under the totalitarian rule of the still-governing Kim family cult, and did so with the aid of the Chinese communists.

The Global Times regime-approved experts claimed Yoon visited Kyiv only to “secur[e] a piece of the pie during future post-war reconstruction in Ukraine.

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Authored by Frances Martel via Breitbart July 17th 2023