Belgian envoy to South Korea's wife claims diplomatic immunity

Belgian ambassador to South Korea’s wife claims diplomatic immunity after SLAPPING shop assistant who accused her of stealing a jacket

  • Xiang Xueqiu is accused of hitting two boutique staff in the head on April 9 in a row over shop lifting, police said on Monday
  • The Belgian embassy ‘has expressed it would maintain the right of immunity for the ambassador’s wife,’ South Korean police said on Sunday
  • A detective at Yongsan police station in central Seoul said, adding that police would not pursue the case

The wife of Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea has claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid criminal charges.

Xiang Xueqiu is accused of hitting two boutique staff in the head on April 9 in a row over shop lifting, police said on Monday. 

Ambassador Peter Lescouhier has previously said that he ‘sincerely regrets the incident involving his wife,’ adding that he ‘wants to apologise on her behalf.’

The Belgian embassy ‘has expressed it would maintain the right of immunity for the ambassador’s wife,’ a detective at Yongsan police station in central Seoul said, adding that police would not pursue the case. 

Slapped: The shop worker (above) displays the red mark on her face after being allegedly hit by Xiang Xueqiu, who is the wife of the Belgian ambassador to South Korea

South Korea is a signatory of the Vienna Convention, which gives accredited diplomats and their families immunity from criminal prosecution. 

Officers questioned Xiang earlier this month after the embassy said she would cooperate with police. 

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that Xiang was hospitalised with a stroke and was discharged on April 23. 

Reports say Xiang tried on clothes in a Seoul store before walking out, prompting an assistant to run after her to ask about an item she was wearing and triggering the confrontation.

The employee told CNN that she had asked Xiang about a jacket she was wearing, believing she might have stolen it. 

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous told the outlet that she couldn’t understand Xiang and so had tried to look at the label inside the jacket and saw it was not from the shop. 

The woman said she had apologised to Xiang in English but that Xiang followed her back into the shop.

CCTV camera footage showed Xiang pulling at one employee’s arm and hitting her in the head, before slapping another worker who tried to intervene across the face. 

The footage also appeared to show Xiang speaking with two police officers at the scene. 

Ambassador Peter Lescouhier (pictured) has previously said that he ‘sincerely regrets the incident involving his wife,’ adding that he ‘wants to apologise on her behalf’ [File photo]

‘We can understand her anger but that does not justify her violent behavior,’ the employee told CNN.

‘We’re not sure if we’ll be able to get a genuine apology through reporting this incident but this could happen to other employees in the service industry,’ the employees said in a statement quoted by the outlet.

‘In a hope to prevent any future recurrences, by someone who abuses one’s power, we’re providing this footage.’

The footage – provided by the family of an alleged victim – was widely reported by local media and circulated online and turned public opinion sharply against the ambassador’s family. 

The Belgian embassy issued the ambassador’s apology in a bilingual Facebook post as it sought to contain the damage, but its Korean translation sounded heavy-handed, further souring some reactions.

Public anger heightened in response to the use of diplomatic immunity, with more than 1,000 largely negative comments posted on one online report.

‘I understand diplomats are given immunity but why are their families given such rights too?’ asked one poster on Naver, the country’s largest portal.

‘This incident should not pass by without consequences.’

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