Belgium Recalls Ambassador to South Korea After Wife Attacked Workers

Belgium has recalled its ambassador to South Korea after his wife allegedly assaulted two employees of a shop in Seoul, an incident that elicited widespread public anger in South Korea.

According to the AP, the Belgian Embassy said Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmès had decided that it was in the best interest of bilateral relations to terminate Ambassador Peter Lescouhier's tenure as Belgium's ambassador to Seoul, a position he has held for three years. It's been said that he will depart this summer, but an exact date hasn't been released.

Although Lescouhier served his country with dedication, “the current situation doesn’t allow him to further carry out his role in a serene way,” the embassy said Monday. The Belgian government also waived diplomatic immunity for Lescouhier's wife, Xiang Xueqiu, to allow her to be investigated by the South Korean police. However, her immunity remains partially intact, protecting her from criminal trials or punishment.

Lescouhier issued an apology on behalf of his wife earlier this month, 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." Xiang met privately with the two shop employees and apologized, the embassy added.

According to South Korean media, Xiang reacted angrily when a shop employee asked about the jacket she was wearing, suspecting that it might have been stolen. Security camera video captured her response, which included shoving and slapping an employee in the face and hitting another on the head.

In the wake of the incident, the video was leaked to the South Korean press and it prompted thousands of citizens to sign petitions to the presidential website calling for the wife of the ambassador to be expelled from the country. However, since SK is a signatory to the Vienna Convention, it grants diplomats and their families protections against criminal prosecution, although immunity can also be voluntarily waived.

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