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Vitalii Kim. From local businessman to a war-time leader

Vitalii Kim. From local businessman to a war-time leader

Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine has become a real leadership test for many Ukrainian politicians and statesmen. Someone did not pass these tests, and someone, as the head of the Mykolaiv Regional Military Administration, Vitalii Kim, met them with dignity. He wasn’t a well-known politician in Ukraine and abroad until February 24, 2022, but he became a symbol of resilience after. Although the Mykolaiv region stayed one of the hottest spots in the war from the very beginning of the full-scale invasion, Kim did not lose his optimism and thanks to this, inspired hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to resist Russian aggression. Read more about Vitali Kim in our special material:

Vitalii Kim, 41, was born in Mykolaiv and has been living there his whole life. His mother is Ukrainian, and his father is of Korean descent. Kim is joking about his origin, saying that his love for Ukraine comes from his mother and his cold mind comes from his father. Kim’s father was a basketball coach and later a physiotherapist who was “a bit strict, democratically strict,” Kim said to the New York Times. Regular lessons in taekwondo, a Korean martial art, instilled discipline. “You have a program, results you need to achieve, and I believe this helps a child grow in the right way,” Kim said.

Kim received his higher education at the Admiral Makarov National University of Shipbuilding in Mykolaiv with a degree in enterprise economics and, in his twenties, started his own business. He had a successful career in construction, agriculture, and catering. Together with his partners, he founded the construction company S.DEVELOP, which builds residential buildings in Mykolaiv, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.

In 2019, his political career started. Vitalii Kim headed the Mykolaiv branch of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party, “the People’s Servant,” in the presidential and parliamentary elections. Later in 2020, when Volodymyr Zelenskyy became President, he appointed Kim as the head of regional administration. Kim, however, has never thought it could turn into a military administration at once.

When Russia started a full-scale war on Ukraine in 2022, Vitalii Kim wasn’t widely known in Ukraine and abroad. But it changed in several days. He began recording optimistic videos for Ukrainians and instantly became popular.  

The phrase from the song “Good evening, we are from Ukraine,” Vitalii Kim used in his video addresses, started to be associated with him. He heard a song with that name a few months before the full-scale invasion and liked it. “It turns out I plagiarized,” Kim jokes.

Kim’s video addresses were full of positive thoughts, optimism, day-to-day life, and mockery of Russians. It helped many people stay calm in the first weeks of the full-scale war. He was even jokingly called “a sedative.”

For the last six months, Kim’s job is not only about optimistic expressions but about war too. Together with the military command, they hold defense of Mykolaiv region, which is under Russian constant shelling. Thanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the resistance of the Ukrainian people, the Russians failed to capture the region. 

On March 6, 2022, Kim, together with other Ukrainian regional leaders, was awarded the Order of Bohdan Khmelnytsky III for his significant contribution to the defense of Ukraine’s independence and integrity. After receiving the award, the governor emphasized that the Order does not belong to him exclusively but rather to the entire Mykolaiv region.

“It wasn’t hard to reunite Ukrainians when the war started. They did it in one day. It was that easy. Because to their eyes, Russia is not just an army, it’s a true evil that is destroying everything in its path… Throughout our history, we have been fighting for our independence. The fight for freedom is in our DNA now.”

Vitalii Kim, head of Mykolaiv Regional Military Administration


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