Belgian ambassador to South Korea apologises for wife's 'assault'

SEOUL (AFP) – Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea apologised on Thursday (April 22) after footage showed his wife hitting two boutique staff in a row over shoplifting.

The envoy’s wife tried on items in the Seoul store before walking out, prompting an assistant to run after her to ask about an item she was wearing and reportedly triggering the confrontation.

Closed-circuit television footage broadcast by South Korea’s SBS showed her pulling at one employee’s arm and hitting her in the head, before slapping another worker who tried to intervene across the face.

The footage had been provided to it in the hope that such an “incident never recurs against workers in (the) service sector”, SBS said.

The incident caused widespread anger in highly law-abiding South Korea, with Yonhap news agency reporting that a Foreign Ministry official had urged the Belgian embassy to cooperate with police.

Ambassador Peter Lescouhier “sincerely regrets the incident involving his wife”, the embassy said in a bilingual Facebook post, adding that he “wants to apologise on her behalf”.

“No matter the circumstances, the way she reacted is unacceptable.”

Media reports named her as Xiang Xueqiu.

As the wife of an ambassador, she enjoys diplomatic immunity but the embassy said she would cooperate with police.

She had been unable to do so as yet as she was hospitalised last week after suffering a stroke and remained under medical care, it added.

“We hope her health will improve quickly, so she will soon be able to assist with the police investigation, so we can all put this regrettable incident behind us,” it said.

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