The wife of Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea is exercising her diplomatic immunity to avoid charges for allegedly slapping a store assistant in April, police said Tuesday.
Ambassador Peter Lescouhier previously apologized on behalf of his wife, Xiang Xueqiu, 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.”
“She sincerely regrets it and she wants to offer her apologies in person to the shopkeeper when she gets the opportunity to do so,” Lescouhier said in a video uploaded to Instagram,” adding his wife was “cooperating actively with the police.”
However, in a statement, Seoul Metropolitan Police said Xiang had exercised her diplomatic immunity, and therefore the prosecution was being dropped.
Under the Vienna Convention, to which South Korea is a signatory, diplomats and their families are entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution, but this can be voluntarily waived.
A security footage of the incident widely shared online showed Xiang getting into an altercation with two clothing store staff on April 9, after one of the women asked the ambassador’s wife about a jacket she was wearing, believing she might have stolen it.
After looking at the jacket label she apologized in English and came back inside, but was pursued by Xiang.
In the video, Xiang can be seen gesticulating angrily and shoving one of the clerks, before slapping her across the face.
The use of diplomatic immunity has been controversial in other countries in the past. Last year, the United States and the United Kingdom announced they would change the diplomatic immunity rules between the two nations after Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a former US diplomat, was able to avoid prosecution for allegedly causing the death of a British teenager in a road accident.