Belgium envoy’s wife uses immunity in alleged Seoul assault

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Police say the wife of Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea has invoked her right to diplomatic immunity to avoid criminal charges over allegations she assaulted two employees of a shop in Seoul during an altercation in April.

Kim Yang-hyo, an official from Seoul’s Yongsan police station, said Tuesday that police will formally drop the case soon. The Belgium Embassy said in a text message that Ambassador Peter Lescouhier’s wife has been cooperating with police but declined to comment further.

Lescouhier, in an Instagram video last week, issued an apology on behalf of his wife, saying she “might have had her reasons to be angry at the way she was treated in that shop but committing physical violence is totally unacceptable.”

He said his wife had recently been treated in a hospital for an unspecified medical condition and was willing to personally apologize to the shop’s owner when possible.

According to South Korean media reports, his wife reacted angrily when a shop employee asked about the jacket she was wearing, suspecting that it could have been stolen. Security camera video showed her shoving and slapping an employee in the face and hitting another on the head.

The incident drew widespread anger, prompting thousands of people to sign petitions on South Korea’s presidential website calling for the wife to be expelled from the country.

South Korea is a signatory to the Vienna Convention, which grants diplomats and their families protection against criminal prosecution, although the immunity can be voluntarily waived.

In response to media inquiries about the ambassador’s wife exercising diplomatic immunity, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it has been “seriously handling” unlawful behavior by foreign diplomats and will discuss future steps with relevant agencies.

The ministry said there have been no cases in the past five years of foreign diplomats being prosecuted in South Korea after waiving diplomatic immunity.

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