Belgian ambassador loses South Korea posting after scandal over wife slapping shop worker

·2-min read
<p>A man wearing a face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walks past the Belgium Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on 31 May, 2021</p> (AP)

A man wearing a face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walks past the Belgium Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on 31 May, 2021

(AP)

Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea will soon leave his post after a scandal involving his wife slapping a shop worker.

The incident took place on 9 April in a store in Seoul, the South Korean capital. The footage showed Xiang Xueqiu, wife of Belgian ambassador Peter Lescouhier, slapping a storekeeper and hitting another on the head.

The colleague had suspected the ambassador’s wife was trying to leave the shop without paying for an item of clothing.

In a Facebook post on Monday, the Belgian embassy said the country’s minister of foreign affairs, Sophie Wilmes, decided it was in the best interest of bilateral relations to end the ambassador’s tenure this summer.

It said Mr Lescouhier served Belgium with dedication but the “current situation doesn’t allow him to further carry out his role in a serene way”. He has been Belgium’s envoy in Seoul for about three years.

There is no specific date on when the ambassador’s term will end or a replacement will be named, though the changeover is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

The Belgian government is also cooperating with South Korean authorities in the case. The ambassador’s wife has met the two shop employees privately and apologised.

According to the embassy, they have already waived the diplomatic immunity of Xiang Xueqiu, so that she could be investigated by South Korean police.

But South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said her immunity was only partially waived and she still had protection from criminal trials or punishment.

Earlier this month, the ambassador had issued an apology on behalf of his wife, in an Instagram video, and said that 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.”

The incident had led to widespread anger resulting in thousands of people signing petitions on South Korea’s presidential website calling for the ambassador’s wife to be expelled from the country.

Additional reporting by agencies

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