S. Korea to ban exports of strategic materials to Russia

February 28, 2022

South Korea announced its decision Monday to ban exports of strategic materials to Russia and join the multinational move to exclude the country from the SWIFT global payment network, in a move to back a campaign to hold Moscow accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.

The foreign ministry made the announcement as Washington is rallying allies and partners to impose “devastating costs” on Russia, including its isolation from global financial and trade systems.

Seoul has notified Washington of its decision on the sanctions through a diplomatic channel, the ministry said, following various considerations, including relations with Moscow, still a partner for peace on the Korean Peninsula, trade and other exchanges.

South Korea seeks to strengthen export screening procedures concerning Russia.

It is expected to bar the exports to Russia of strategic materials singled out by four multilateral export control regimes — the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA); the Australia Group (AG); and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

The regimes are aimed at fending off the spread of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery vehicles and related technologies and equipment.

Earlier, Washington announced restrictions on exports of U.S. origin technology and products to 49 Russian military entities, including its defense ministry, under a “policy of denial.”

Washington is known to have requested Seoul take such strong export control measures against Moscow.

South Korea also plans to finalize a decision on possible steps it can take in connection with U.S. standalone export curbs against Russia on dozens of items, such as semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, information security equipment, lasers and sensors.

On the financial front, Seoul plans to join the move to remove Russia from the SWIFT payment system that links 11,000 banks and institutions in more than 200 countries and allows the smooth cross-border transfer of money.

The U.S., Britain, Canada and other countries have already moved to exclude key Russian banks from the system.

South Korea plans to decide on specific steps to join the financial sanctions after interagency consultations, the ministry said.

Aside from partaking in the sanctions program, Seoul plans to bolster humanitarian support for Ukraine. That includes the provision of military suits and other in-kind contributions and the expansion of official development assistance allotted for Ukraine.

Later in the day, Russian Ambassador to South Korea Andrey Kulik expressed regrets over Seoul’s decision, warning bilateral relations will suffer should a country join anti-Moscow sanctions.

“The decision is deeply regrettable,” Kulik told a press conference held hours after the announcement. “Russia-South Korea relations have developed only in a positive way in the past 30 years. The upward trajectory, I think, will now change course.”

“One thing that should be clearly understood is that countries taking part in sanctions against Russia will not only face considerable damage in bilateral ties but are also participating in illegal acts led by the Western countries,” he said.

European Union Ambassador to South Korea Maria Castillo Fernandez expressed appreciation for South Korea’s support for Ukraine.

“Korea stands with the EU, Ukraine and international community supporting Ukraine, condemning Russia’s unjustified invasion and in taking measures, including export controls and SWIFT ban to sanction these violations of international law,” she said in a statement.

“The EU appreciates this Korean government’s commitment, including humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and for considering LNG for the EU,” she added.