The tenure of the Belgian Ambassador to South Korea, Peter Lescouhier, will be ended following the incident in which his wife slapped a shop assistant at a clothing store in the capital, Seoul, announced Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmès on Friday.
The woman, Xiang Xueqiu, was accused of slapping two shop assistants who suspected her of shoplifting on 9 April, after she reportedly tried on two items of clothing before leaving the store. The assistant immediately followed her to ask about it, which led to a discussion.
“[The] Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès has decided that it is in the best interest of our bilateral relations to end Ambassador Lescouhier’s tenure in the Republic of Korea this summer,” a press release reads.
Surveillance footage, broadcast by South Korean television station SBS, shows the woman grabbing the shop assistant’s arm and slapping them in the face, an incident which aroused much anger in the country.
Foreign Affairs underlined that Mrs. Xiang Xueqiu “took the initiative to meet privately with the two store employees in order to apologise in person for her unacceptable behaviour in the store.”
Additionally, as she was hospitalised shortly after the incident, she went to the police as soon as her health condition allowed it, and fully cooperated with the investigation.
Earlier in May, the woman invoked her diplomatic immunity, which was waived by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, based on the request of the police, according to the press release.
“Belgium will of course continue to cooperate with the Korean authorities as needed,” it added.
Previously, Lescouhier had already apologised on behalf of his wife on the Facebook page of the Belgian Embassy in Seoul, both in English and Korean. “No matter the circumstances, the way she reacted is unacceptable,” he said.
Belgium and the Republic of Korea has a “long history of friendship, resulting in strong political and economic ties,” Wilmès stressed, adding that the countries are celebrating 120 years of diplomatic relations this year.