“The sound of shelling and bombing was unceasing all day long over the endless flatlands.”
This is how Kim Jae-kyung, 33, who fought as a Ukrainian volunteer soldier from October last year to March this year, described the situation on the eastern front where he was deployed in an interview with The Korea Times on Thursday. For six months, Kim fought against Russian forces as part of the 3rd Battalion of the International Brigade of the Ukrainian National Defense Forces.
Dong-A Ilbo interviewed Kim three times between March 24 and April 4, both in person and by phone. Kim joined the army in 2010 as a special forces officer and retired in 2014. “I then worked as an intelligence officer at the National Intelligence Service until the end of 2018, and since 2019, I have been helping my parents run an orchard in Sangju, North Gyeongsang Province,” Kim said.
After the war in Ukraine broke out in February last year, Kim decided to join the army and bought night vision goggles with his own money. His grandfather was a veteran of the Korean War. He traveled to Poland in October last year and applied for enlistment locally토토사이트.
After entering the battlefield, it was a series of close calls. In January, he spotted a Russian T-90 tank during a search operation and quickly hid in an abandoned house. As soon as he entered the building, it was hit by artillery fire and the outer wall was shattered. “My head hit the ground and I lost consciousness,” he says, “and all of my teammates who were caught in the shelling were hospitalized.” Since then, he has been knocked out three more times by Russian attacks.
It was not uncommon for a comrade-in-arms to be killed, even if he was just talking to him yesterday. “Two weeks after we went to the front, my Polish roommate stepped on a landmine and died,” says Kim. “On average, one of my comrades died every two weeks, and there were times when I couldn’t even recover the body before my eyes,” he sighs.
Seeing the devastating effects of children exposed to the violence of war was also a nightmare. “When we withdrew from the front for a while, I helped treat people in the rear, and many of the men, women, and children had been sexually abused,” Kim said.
Since returning home in March of this year, Kim has been going to the hospital to treat her concussion, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and insomnia. She went on trial on March 1 for violating passport laws by traveling to Ukraine, a travel ban country. When the law firm Sanwoo heard about Kim’s story, they offered to help, saying they wanted to provide legal support. “Even now, when a local comrade-in-arms dies, they send me a funeral video,” Kim said. “On this Memorial Day, I want to convey that democracy is not free and that there are still people fighting against wars of aggression.” “I am often asked if I regret participating in the war, but I have no regrets because I went to defend democracy in a war of aggression,” he emphasized.