A major scandal erupted in South Korea involving the Belgian ambassador and his wife. On April 9 there was an unpleasant incident at a clothing store in Seoul when the Belgian ambassador’s wife, Peter Lescuchier, pushed and slapped one female employee on the cheek and slapped another on the back of the head because she was asked if she had paid for the clothes she was wearing.
The diplomat’s wife spent about an hour in the store trying on clothes before she left. And the employees wanted to make sure that all the clothes she wore belonged to the woman.
A police investigation was opened into the incident. Diplomats and their families have diplomatic immunity, which means that in most cases they are not prosecuted under the laws of the host country.
The Belgian embassy in Seoul released a statement on social media Thursday in which Ambassador Peter Lescuchier expressed “sincere regret” and apologized for his wife’s behavior, which was “unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances.” The ambassador explained that his 63-year-old wife, Xiang Xueqiu, had recently been hospitalized with a stroke. He promised full cooperation with the police in investigating the incident.
In response to the statement, the Belgian embassy received a “wave of angry comments,” considering the apology not quite polite and insincere.
As Yonhap notes, by Friday evening there were more than 600 comments under the statement, with most expressing the view that the ambassador or his spouse should have apologized in person rather than online. Others noted that the apology, in Korean, was written in plain language, without the use of turns that show great respect for the recipient. There were also claims that the entry resembled an automatic translation made over the Internet. Many also questioned whether the ambassador was telling the truth about his wife’s health.
Earlier Wednesday, South Korean police announced they wanted to question the Belgian ambassador’s wife for a complaint about an alleged assault on a clothing store employee, Reuters reported. The South Korean Foreign Ministry urged the Belgian embassy to cooperate in the matter and said action would be taken based on a further police investigation.
The Belgian embassy responded by explaining that Ms. Siang was “unable to respond to the police invitation right now” due to ill health.
Amid the allegations, South Koreans were also angry that the ambassador’s wife would be able to claim diplomatic immunity in order to avoid prosecution.