South Korea: Wife of Belgian ambassador invokes immunity over assault | News | DW | 17.05.2021

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South Korea: Wife of Belgian ambassador invokes immunity over assault

Belgium's ambassador to South Korea has apologized after footage showed his wife striking two shop employees. Police say she has invoked diplomatic immunity to avoid prosecution.

A view of Seoul

Diplomats and their families are immune to prosecution

The wife of Belgium's ambassador to South Korea has invoked diplomatic immunity to avoid criminal charges after allegedly assaulting a shop employee, local police said on Monday.

Xiang Xueqiu was accused of slapping two clothing shop attendants after being queried about whether she had paid for clothes that were similar to those sold by the shop.

Security camera footage released to media outlets showed her walking out of the Seoul boutique and an assistant running after her. She is then seen pulling at one employee's arm and hitting her on the head, then slapping another worker who stepped in to help. 

The April incident prompted outrage in Korean mainstream and social media.

Ambassador apologizes for incident

Ambassador Peter Lescouhier earlier apologized on behalf of his wife, saying he "sincerely regrets the incident." He said his wife would cooperate with the authorities. "No matter the circumstances, the way she reacted is unacceptable."

After a police investigation, the embassy "expressed it would maintain the right of immunity for the ambassador's wife," a detective at Yongsan police station in central Seoul said. Police will now drop the case.

South Korea is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which grants immunity to criminal prosecution for diplomats and their families.

The use of diplomatic immunity has caused several controversies in recent years, most notably when the wife of an American diplomat invoked immunity and fled the UK after driving on the wrong side of the road and killing a 19-year-old man. The rules under which she claimed immunity have since been changed.

aw/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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