The wife of Peter Lescouhier, the Belgian Ambassador to South Korea, has invoked her diplomatic immunity to avoid prosecution after being accused of slapping a shop assistant at a clothing store in the capital Seoul.
According to the South Korean police, the woman, Xiang Xueqiu, was accused of slapping two shop assistants who suspected her of shoplifting, reports the Belga news agency.
On 9 April, the woman had reportedly tried on two items of clothing in the shop before walking out. A shop assistant immediately followed her to ask about a garment she was wearing, which led to a discussion.
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.
On the Facebook page of the Belgian Embassy in Seoul, Lescouhier had previously apologised, both in English and Korean, on behalf of his wife. “No matter the circumstances, the way she reacted is unacceptable,” he said.
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic agents and their family members enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the host country’s courts, which means that in most cases they cannot be prosecuted no matter how serious the offence unless their immunity is waived by the sending state.
The Belgian Embassy had previously stated that it would cooperate with the police investigation.
According to an official at the Yongsan police station, in the centre of Seoul, the embassy has stated that it “upholds the right of the ambassador’s wife to immunity,” reports Belga.