Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Belgian ambassador forfeits South Korea posting after wife assaulted shop worker

His wife had become angry after being suspected of shoplifting.

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Belgium is prematurely ending the posting of its ambassador to South Korea after his wife assaulted a female member of staff in an upmarket Seoul clothes shop.

CCTV footage of the incident shows Peter Lescouhier’s wife, Xiang Xueqiu, slapping and pushing a shop assistant in April.

Staff had wanted to check the clothes she was leaving in were her own, amid concern she might be shoplifting.

At the time of the incident, the BBC reported the couple had plans to “claim diplomatic immunity” to avoid criminal charges, which sparked mass outrage in South Korea. However, the embassy confirmed that “her diplomatic immunity was waived on the request of the police,” and she would comply fully in the criminal investigation.

Xiang later met the shop employee to apologise for her “unacceptable behaviour”, the Belgian foreign ministry said.

But Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes decided to end Lescouhier’s posting this summer after three years in the role. While Lescouhier had served his country with dedication, “the current situation” did not “allow him to further carry out his role in a serene way”, the embassy said in a Facebook post.

The incident took place in a clothing shop in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. Xiang, 63, had spent around an hour trying on clothes before she left, South Korean media reported.

A member of staff followed her as she left the shop to make sure the clothes she was wearing – originally from the same shop – were paid for.

The ambassador’s wife then followed the employee back into the shop and, in a confrontation caught on CCTV, pushed and slapped another staff member who had tried to intervene. The woman was left with a “swollen face and a bloodshot eye”, the South China Morning Post reported.

Police questioned Xiang on May 6. She had previously been treated in hospital after suffering a stroke following the incident, according to the Belgian embassy.

The embassy’s press release did not indicate who would replace Lescouhier or when his term would officially end.

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