Seoul considering travel warning after Moscow attacks


SEOUL – South Korea is considering issuing a travel warning for students and tourists heading to Moscow, Seoul’s foreign ministry said Monday, as a South Korean student in the Russian capital remained hospitalised following what appeared to be the latest in a series of hate crimes against people of “non-Slavic” appearance.

The move, if taken, could seriously undermine Russia’s reputation as a tourist destination in the international community, Yonhap news agency cited ministry officials as saying.

“Issuing a travel warning requires careful deliberation as it may limit visits by our tourists to the area and it might also have a serious effect on the concerned nation,” ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun told a press briefing.

“For now, the government is carefully reviewing the possibility of issuing a travel warning on Moscow,” he added.

Before taking any official measures, the ministry spokesman advised people staying or traveling in Russia to move only in groups and to have a local guide at all times if possible.

The move comes after a 29-year-old South Korean student, identified only by his surname Shim, was attacked while on his way home from a shopping mall in the Russian capital on Sunday.

The assailant, who wore a white face mask, waited until the victim parted from his friends before stabbing him in the neck, according to officials from the South Korean embassy in Moscow, who cited eye witnesses. The suspect immediately fled the scene.

The incident came about three weeks after another South Korean student in the Siberian city of Barnaul, capital of the Altai region, was stabbed to death in what was believed to be a racially motivated crime by three Russian youths. Seoul has repeatedly requested Russia to help prevent the recurrence of such crimes.

But cases have continued, though they are not on a quick rise, according to ministry officials.

“The government again asked the central government of Russia and police authorities in local governments around Russia to take measures to prevent such incidents.

“They, of course, promised to actively cooperate, but we are trying to make sure such cooperation will actually take place,” the ministry spokesman said.

The local police in Moscow were earlier said to believe the latest attack on the South Korean student, too, may have been racially motivated as it bore similarity to crimes carried out by Russian skinheads in the area.

Seoul’s foreign ministry spokesman, however, said it was too early to presume the attack was racially motivated.

“There are views the crime was committed by a member of a racist gang, but it is hard to say all crimes against South Koreans are racially motivated,” he said.

Shim, now in critical conditions, went to Russia six years ago and is currently enrolled at a cinema college in Moscow.