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[Newsmaker] Belgian ambassador apologizes for wife’s assault

This blurred surveillance footage, obtained by Yonhap News TV from the victim's family on Tuesday, shows the scene of an incident in which the wife of Belgian Ambassador Peter Lescouhier allegedly assaulted two employees at a local clothing store. (Yonhap)
This blurred surveillance footage, obtained by Yonhap News TV from the victim's family on Tuesday, shows the scene of an incident in which the wife of Belgian Ambassador Peter Lescouhier allegedly assaulted two employees at a local clothing store. (Yonhap)
The Belgian ambassador to South Korea apologized on Thursday for his wife’s assault of a clothing store staffer in Seoul, which was captured on security camera and spread on social media earlier this week.

The footage shows Xiang Xueqiu, wife of Ambassador Peter Lescouhier, slapping a storekeeper who tried to stop her from approaching a colleague behind the store counter. The colleague suspected that Xiang, 63, was trying to leave the shop wearing a piece of clothing she didn’t pay for.

“The Ambassador of Belgium sincerely regrets the incident involving his wife which happened on April 9 and wants to apologize on her behalf,” the Belgian Embassy said in a statement posted on its website and Facebook.

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

The apology comes days after South Koreans have called for an official apology after the footage was disclosed through the press last week.

Police said earlier they wished to interrogate Xiang upon receiving a complaint about the alleged assault, but she could not be reached as she was hospitalized.

The embassy said Lescouhier was informed by police of an investigation the day his wife was hospitalized and added that he will not give any further comments or interviews as the probe is still ongoing.

Xiang has been unable to speak to police as she is undergoing medical treatment for a stroke she suffered in the beginning of last week, the embassy said.

The security camera footage shows Xiang entering the store in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, at about 2:26 p.m. on April 9, looking at and trying on clothes for about one hour and leaving the shop.

A staff member at the store said she followed her out as she thought Xiang was wearing an item sold in the store, according to local news reports. The staffer said “excuse me” and “sorry” as she checked the label in Xiang’s jacket “as politely as possible,” reports quoted her as saying.

The clothing belonged to Xiang.

Xiang came back to the store after two minutes, hit the staffer on the back of her head, and slapped another staff in the face, the video showed.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Xiang can avoid getting arrested, detained or indicted as diplomats posted to South Korea and their families have diplomatic immunity.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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