South Korea is turning away Russians trying to escape Putin's military draft by sea

South Korea is turning away Russians trying to escape Putin's military draft by sea
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  • Russians fleeing Putin's military draft have left via car, train, plane, and less frequently, by boat.

  • All but two Russians known to have sailed into South Korea to avoid the draft have been denied entry.

  • A South Korean lawmaker told NBC News the country must create "dedicated procedures" for those fleeing the conflict.

Russians heading to South Korea by boat in hopes of evading Vladimir Putin's military draft are being denied entry, NBC News reported Sunday.

In September, after having faced military losses and failures on the ground, Putin ordered a "partial military mobilization" in an effort to add an additional 300,000 troops to Ukraine. Since then, Russia has seen numerous protests with thousands of arrests and a fleeing population of those who hope to avoid the conflict.

Most fleeing the conscription left via plane, train, or car, but at least 23 took to the sea hoping to get into South Korea, Reuters reported.

At least one group arrived at the South Korean island of Ulleung from the Russian city of Vladivostok, according to the Jerusalem Post. And, according to NBC News, at least one boat remains stationed in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, despite those aboard being denied entry since its arrival Tuesday.

"It is likely that Korea is becoming an intermediate stopover as more people attempt to escape Russia," An Ho-young, a South Korean lawmaker, told NBC News. An said it was necessary for the government to come up with "dedicated procedures for handling what could turn into a diplomatic and human rights issue."

While each of the Russians who attempted to get to South Korea by boat applied for tourist visas, all but two were denied entry due to "insufficient documentation and unclear objective," per An, NBC News reported. The two that were granted entry had been in the country before.

Reuters reported that Russians are typically allowed to enter South Korea without a visa if they are approved through the country's electronic travel authorization system.

"The Russian visitors went through a regular routine immigration process like everybody else, and those denied of entry to South Korea were because they did not meet the visa requirements and regulations," a South Korean Justice Ministry spokesperson told NBC News.

Russia and South Korea have an agreement allowing citizens to enter for up to 90 days visa-free, according to the Korea Herald. But if an individual is visiting South Korea for purposes other than employment, residence, or study, they must obtain the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization ahead of arrival, the outlet added.

Those seeking refugee status on the basis of avoiding military conscription do not typically qualify for it, the Korean outlet added. The Herald, citing a Coast Guard officer, said the official numbers for Russians seeking asylum are currently unknown, but more may be on the way.

"We don't know if the Russians who sailed their way over here were asking to apply for refugee status. But if they were, I don't think taking them in would have hurt our ties with Russia," Lee Sang-joon, a professor of South Korea-Russia relations at Kookmin University, told the Korea Herald.

"South Korea is already a country that accepts very few refugees," he said. "I think now may be a good time for us to revisit our standards," he said. "We could open our doors to Russian IT workers who have been leaving their country en masse, and Putin opponents or those otherwise seeking political asylum."

South Korean Justice Ministry did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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