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Ministry says will strictly handle alleged hit-and-run involving US diplomat

US Embassy refutes news reports, asking fair and thorough investigation

File Photo (Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency)
File Photo (Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency)
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday it will strictly deal with the hit-and-run incident involving US diplomats.

A US diplomat allegedly fled the scene of a car accident Wednesday afternoon and refused to cooperate with the police.

During a press briefing, spokesperson Choi Young-sam said the Foreign Ministry was aware of the incident and was continuing to communicate with the relevant authorities.

Choi reiterated that Seoul would handle the case strictly and fairly in cooperation with investigative authorities.

“We would like to say, clearly, that we have always responded sternly to misconduct by the diplomatic corps in South Korea,” Choi said.

But Choi declined to confirm further details as related government departments work on their response.  

The US diplomat was questioned by the police over the car accident on Thursday.

According to the police, the car carrying four US diplomats hit a taxi’s rear- bumper at around 5:35 pm Wednesday while changing lanes near the Namsan No. 3 Tunnel in central Seoul.

The second secretary of the US Embassy allegedly fled the scene of the accident and continued to drive to Yongsan Garrison while the taxi driver chased him.

The US diplomat and three other passengers reportedly refused to cooperate with the police, who tried to verify the identity of the driver and check whether the driver was under the influence of alcohol, without opening the car window.

Then, the car entered the territory of the US Army military bases, which is off-limits to the South Korean legal authorities. The diplomat could not be arrested due to their diplomatic immunity.

But the US Embassy in South Korea Thursday said it "disputes the account of this incident as reported in the press" by distributing a statement to journalists. But the embassy did not elaborate on which part of the reports it rebutted.

The US Embassy said it believes that local law enforcement authorities “will conduct a thorough and fair investigation of the matter,” adding the embassy “will refrain from providing further comment until that investigation has been completed.”

The taxi driver was questioned by the police Wednesday, and the police formally requested the US Embassy to cooperate in the investigation Thursday morning.

The police reportedly analyze the video footage and other materials of the car accident and will examine if the driver intentionally left the scene of the accident.

By Ji Da-gyum (dagyumji@heraldcorp.com)
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