Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea will leave his post in the coming weeks after his wife assaulted a clothes shop employee in an incident widely seen on social media.
Foreign affairs minister Sophie Wilmes has decided to end Peter Lescouhier’s tenure this summer after three years, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
Footage from security cameras showed the ambassador’s wife, Xiang Xueqiu, slap the face of a storekeeper in the South Korean capital, Seoul, who tried to stop her approaching a colleague on April 9.
A video widely shared online showed Xiang getting into an altercation with two clothing store staff on April 9, after one of the women asked the ambassador’s wife about a jacket she was wearing, believing she might have stolen it.
The employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said she couldn’t understand Xiang and tried to look at the label inside the jacket.
When she confronted Xiang on the street outside the store, she saw the jacket was not from the shop.
She apologized in English and came back inside, but was pursued by Xiang.
In the video, Xiang can be seen gesticulating angrily and shoving one of the clerks, before slapping her across the face.
In a photo shared, the woman was left with a large red swelling on her face.
“We can understand her anger but that does not justify her violent behavior,” the employee said, adding that the woman who was slapped suffered ringing in her ear and “mental anguish.”
“We’re not sure if we’ll be able to get a genuine apology through reporting this incident but this could happen to other employees in the service industry,” the employees said in a statement.
“In a hope to prevent any future recurrences, by someone who abuses one’s power, we’re providing this footage.”
According to the Belgian Embassy, Xiang was hospitalized following the incident, but has since been discharged.
Ambassador Peter Lescouhier previously apologized on behalf of his wife, saying 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.”
“She sincerely regrets it and she wants to offer her apologies in person to the shopkeeper when she gets the opportunity to do so,” Lescouhier said, adding his wife was “cooperating actively with the police.”
Lescouhier had served his country loyally, the ministry said, overseeing a successful state visit in 2019.
“It has, however, become clear that the current situation does not allow him to continue carrying out his role in a serene manner,” the Belgian foreign affairs ministry said.