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Belgian ambassador's wife in South Korea claims immunity after assault

South Korean police have faced challenges  obtaining the cooperation of the Belgian Embassy after an assault involving the ambassador’s wife on April 9. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE
South Korean police have faced challenges  obtaining the cooperation of the Belgian Embassy after an assault involving the ambassador’s wife on April 9. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

May 17 (UPI) -- The wife of the Belgian ambassador to South Korea most likely will not face criminal charges after assaulting two local women at a boutique in Seoul.

Xiang Xueqiu, 63, the wife of Belgian Ambassador Peter Lescouhier, has claimed diplomatic immunity after the incident captured on store cameras that show Xiang hitting store clerks, local network YTN reported Monday.

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Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations protects diplomats from criminal prosecution. Xiang cannot be prosecuted under South Korean law, the report said.

Xiang was visiting the store in the Seoul district of Hannam-dong on April 9, when she assaulted the women. The attack came after Xiang returned to the store after she was suspected of leaving the shop with unpaid items.

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Video footage showed Xiang dragging a clerk by the arm before hitting her on the back of the head. A second woman tries to intervene, but is slapped in the face, the recording showed.

The ambassador's wife was requested to interview with local police, but in April the Belgian Embassy claimed on its Facebook page that Xiang was "unable to respond" to police queries because she had suffered a "stroke."

Xiang eventually met with police May 6, but victims said they are unhappy with her apology.

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The store clerks said Xiang apologized by phone, but the diplomat's wife did not use a bilingual interpreter. Victims said they were unable to understand her message, and it remains unclear what Xiang said to her victims.

In the past five years 65 criminal cases involving foreign diplomats in Korea have been recorded, but most ended with the alleged perpetrator citing diplomatic immunity, the report said.

Seol Hye-young, a spokeswoman for the Justice Party, blamed Seoul's foreign ministry for "lack of action."

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The government should have done more to hold Lescouhier and his wife accountable, Seol said, according to Newsis on Monday.

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