Belgium is recalling its ambassador to Seoul “without further delay,” after the envoy’s wife was accused of getting into a second physical altercation in four months.
Ambassador Peter Lescouhier had been recalled in late May following an incident in April in which his wife, Xiang Xueqiu, was recorded on CCTV striking a woman in a Seoul store, causing a national scandal in South Korea.
Lescouhier was meant to return to Belgium this month. In the latest incident, Seoul’s Yongsan District Police told CNN on Thursday that Xiang got into a “physical altercation” with a municipal cleaner in the Hannam neighborhood of Seoul around 9:25 a.m. on Monday.
The conflict began, police said, when the unidentified cleaner was sweeping the park and his brush touched Xiang. The municipal employee told the police that the ambassador’s wife yelled at him and struck his cheek twice. He then pushed her, causing her to fall on the ground.
The cleaner called the police and the two admitted they struck each other. Neither wished to press charges. Officers took Xiang to a nearby clinic for a check-up after she reported back pain.
A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed in a statement to CNN that Xiang was involved in “an altercation” in a Seoul park on Monday morning. “The circumstances of this altercation remain unclear,” the statement added.
“Following the incident with two employees of a store, it was agreed that the Ambassador would return with his wife during the month of July. Given this new situation, considering the responsibility that an Ambassador has towards the host country and given our desire to maintain the excellent relations we have with the Republic of Korea, Deputy Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès indicated on Monday that she wished him to return, without further delay,” the ministry’s spokesperson added.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it would “verify the facts of the incident and actively respond by cooperating with related agencies if needed.”
“The ministry will sternly respond if illegal act is found related to the diplomatic corps in South Korea,” in a press guidance given to CNN.
Following the April incident, Lesouhier apologized on behalf of his wife saying she sincerely regretted the incident and that 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.”
Martin Goillandeau reported from London, Jake Kwon and Gawon Bae reported from Seoul.