Belgium Recalls Its Envoy to South Korea After His Wife Got in a Fight, Twice

This time, the woman was accused of slapping a street cleaner.
Junhyup Kwon
Seoul, KR
Belgium ambassador South Korea
Belgium’s King Philippe (left) and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in review honor guards during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on March 26, 2019. Photo: Ahn Young-joon / POOL / AFP

Belgium has ordered its ambassador to South Korea to return to his home country immediately, after the envoy’s wife got into a second altercation with a local resident in three months.

Ambassador Peter Lescouhier was officially recalled in May after his wife, Xiang Xueqiu, slapped a clothing store employee in the face in April after she was falsely accused of shoplifting.

The attack was captured on film and angered many South Koreans. It prompted the Belgian government to recall Lescouhier, saying it was “in the best interest of our bilateral relations.”

Advertisement

But before the ambassador could pack up and leave, his wife was accused on Monday of striking a municipal street cleaner in the face.

The cleaner said that he was struck on his cheek twice on Monday morning, a police officer at Seoul Yongsan Police Station told VICE World News.

The police officer said the cleaner reported the incident to the police but “didn’t want to take it further.” The authorities did not pursue a criminal prosecution.

In an interview with South Korea’s broadcaster SBS News, the cleaner claimed Xiang kicked and stepped on his lunchbox after his broom touched her.

The cleaner said he was slapped as he approached her. He pushed Xiang and caused her to fall, according to the interview, and was slapped in the face again when he helped her get up.

A spokesperson for the Belgian foreign ministry confirmed in an email to VICE World News the ambassador would return with his wife to Belgium this month “without further delay.”

The spokesperson noted that “there was an apparent incident involving the wife,” although “the circumstances of this incident remain unclear.”

Xiang’s slapping of the shopkeeper in April embarrassed the Belgian government and drew public anger, which intensified after the police dropped the case. She enjoyed diplomatic immunity as the spouse of the envoy under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

“I thought she went too far to the point where I suspect that she is aware of the privilege,” Julian Quintart, a popular television personality from Belgium who works in Seoul, told VICE World News. “I feel extremely shameful.”

This year is the 120th anniversary of South Korea and Belgium’s diplomatic bilateral relations. Belgium fought alongside the South in the Korean War as part of the U.S.-led United Nations Command and the countries continue to share economic and political ties.

Follow Junhyup Kwon on Twitter.