The Korea Herald


Ex-SEAL who fought for Ukraine faces 18-month jail term

By Moon Ki Hoon

Published : July 18, 2023 - 13:53

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Screenshot of Rhee Keun captured from his YouTube channel, ROKSEAL Screenshot of Rhee Keun captured from his YouTube channel, ROKSEAL

The prosecution on Monday called for an 18-month prison sentence for Rhee Keun, a former South Korean Navy SEAL and YouTube personality, on charges of violating the ban on traveling to Ukraine, and an unrelated hit-and-run incident in Seoul last July.

Gaining popularity for his special operations background and reality show appearances, Rhee announced his decision to participate in the Ukraine war as a volunteer fighter in March last year. There he joined the International Legion, a foreign division of the Ukrainian Defense Forces, before returning home in May due to an injury.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry has banned Korean nationals from traveling to all regions of Ukraine since February last year amid safety concerns. Those who enter the country without approval can face up to a year in prison or a maximum fine of 10 million won ($8,150) under the Passport Act.

Prosecution maintained that Rhee knowingly violated the travel ban and is showing no regret for the hit-and-run incident. In response, Rhee defended his actions in court, saying he felt a moral obligation as a special operations soldier to save lives and was unaware of the car accident.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 17.