By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) -Desperate to avoid military call-up to fight in Ukraine, more than 20 Russians have sailed in yachts down the North Pacific coast to South Korea, but most were refused entry, a South Korean lawmaker said on Wednesday.
There has been an exodus of conscription-age men from Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilisation on Sept. 21, but most fled by road, rail and air to Europe and neighbouring former Soviet Union countries, like Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Arriving aboard four yachts, 23 Russians have reached South Korea since late September, but authorities have granted entry to only two, lawmaker An Ho-young said, citing coast guard data.
The others “were rejected because their purposes were unclear and they did not have sufficient documents,” the lawmaker said in a statement.
Two yachts left from the South Korean island of Ulleung and southeastern port of Pohang on Tuesday with 15 Russians aboard, An said.
Two other yachts remained in Pohang, and one of them – left with just two Russians aboard after two gained entry – intended making the long voyage to Thailand, the lawmaker added.
A justice ministry official said he did not have details about the yacht cases, but Russians are in general allowed to enter the country without a visa as long as they obtain prior approval via South Korea’s electronic travel authorisation system.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)