Navy SEAL-turned-YouTuber says he is alive in Ukraine

SEOUL-- A former Korean Navy special warfare officer who recently left for Ukraine to join the war against Russia as a volunteer soldier posted news of his survival on social media Tuesday.

"I'm alive," Rhee Keun wrote on his Instagram account in an apparent denial of recent rumors about his death after Russia claimed to have killed about 180 foreign volunteer fighters in an attack on a training base in western Ukraine.

"My teammates withdrew safely from Ukraine, and I'm alone in the country," he said. "I have a lot of things to do. I'm busy combating every day. There will be no news from me until I complete my mission," he added.

The posting was deleted a few minutes after it was uploaded, along with the photos he posted right before and after his departure for the war-torn country.

He later additionally posted a capture of a message from an official of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency saying he will be protected as an overseas Korean national if he informs authorities of his current location.

In response, he said he cannot go back to Korea, although he appreciates the South Korean government and people for worrying about him. "I'll do my best to help Ukraine," he added.

On Monday last week, the YouTuber, also known as Ken Rhee, announced on social media his arrival in Ukraine to help defend it against Russian invaders, which the South Korean foreign ministry confirmed the following day.

The ministry then said it was taking administrative steps to revoke his passport for his unauthorized entry to Ukraine while also seeking criminal punishment against him.

Seoul has banned its nationals from traveling to all regions of Ukraine since mid-February 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 (US$8,150) under the Passport Act.

As for the passport issue, Rhee said, "Don't worry about this, because my passport has yet to be revoked. I can return anytime, even if it is revoked."

The former Korean Navy Underwater Demolition Team military instructor first gained fame after serving as a training instructor on his YouTube show "Fake Men." He later appeared on various entertainment shows on major TV networks, such as MBC and SBS.

Source: Yonhap News Agency