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South Korea, New Zealand spar over diplomat in sex harassment case

South Korea and New Zealand are in discussion over the case of a South Korean diplomat accused of sexual misconduct toward a staff member at the South Korean Embassy in New Zealand in 2017, according to local press reports Monday. File Photo by Yonhap
South Korea and New Zealand are in discussion over the case of a South Korean diplomat accused of sexual misconduct toward a staff member at the South Korean Embassy in New Zealand in 2017, according to local press reports Monday. File Photo by Yonhap

Aug. 3 (UPI) -- South Korea and New Zealand are at odds over the case of a South Korean diplomat who has been accused of groping a New Zealand staff member at Seoul's Embassy in Wellington.

The New Zealand government has called on South Korea to waive the man's diplomatic immunity, but Seoul has agreed to cooperate on the grounds his immunity not be waived, South Korean news service News 1 reported.

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South Korea's foreign ministry told reporters on Monday the two countries have been in communication over the case. Seoul will work with the New Zealand government if it requests investigation under the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and extradition.

New Zealand has urged Seoul to do more, however.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has "expressed her disappointment that the Korean Government was unable to waive immunity to allow aspects of the police investigation into this matter to proceed," the prime minister's office said, according to the New Zealand Herald on Sunday.

Ardern recently conveyed her opinions in a phone call with President Moon Jae-in.

The diplomat, a former deputy ambassador to New Zealand, has been charged with three counts of sexual misconduct that took place in 2017. The plaintiff in the case, a male employee at the embassy, is currently receiving support from MOSAIC, an advocacy group for male sex abuse survivors, according to the report.

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South Korea may have been irritated by New Zealand's decision to go public with the case, which was addressed with disciplinary measures taken in 2018, according to local press reports. The foreign ministry said it had summoned New Zealand's Ambassador to Seoul Philip Turner on Monday, and conveyed its opinion New Zealand's decision to disclose the case to reporters is an "unprecedented" move, according to South Korean news service Newsis.

The two countries have been in communication over the case but Seoul continued to employ the accused, currently stationed in the Philippines, according to Yonhap news agency.

A court in Wellington issued a warrant for the man's arrest in February.

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