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(LEAD) New Zealand disappointed with S. Korea not cooperating with sexual assault probe involving diplomat

All News 18:07 July 30, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 5-9)
By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- New Zealand said Thursday it has expressed disappointment that South Korea's government did not cooperate with a police investigation into allegations that one of its diplomats sexually assaulted a local embassy employee when he was stationed in Wellington.

The male employee has accused the Korean diplomat of groping parts of his body over three different occasions in 2017. The case has drawn fresh attention after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised the issue in a phone call with President Moon Jae-in earlier this week.

"The New Zealand government has expressed its disappointment that the Korean government did not cooperate with earlier requests from New Zealand Police in respect of this case," a spokesperson at New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in emailed comments to Yonhap News Agency.

S. Korean diplomat's alleged sexual harrassment in New Zealand leads to diplomatic issue

"New Zealand's position is that we expect all diplomats to follow the laws of the country they are in, and to be legally accountable for their actions," the official said. "As this matter is a New Zealand Police investigation, the New Zealand Government will make no further comment."

A New Zealand media outlet reported Thursday that Arden had expressed disappointment to Moon that Seoul did not waive immunity so as to allow the investigation to proceed. A spokesperson for Arden was also quoted as saying that it is now up to Seoul to determine what steps to take next.

Seoul's foreign ministry remained cautious about allowing investigators into the diplomatic compound, citing the diplomatic immunity strictly applied under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

But the ministry is willing to help with the investigation to a possible extent and intends to find a way that it can, a ministry official said.

"We have expressed our intention to consider allowing all embassy officials to comply with interviews in writing, if necessary, under the condition that it is not regarded as waiving diplomatic immunity," the official said.

South Korea's foreign ministry had looked into the case and had the diplomat's salary cut for a month as a disciplinary measure before reassigning him to the current post in Southeast Asia, according to sources familiar with the matter.

During the phone call with Ardern, Moon said that his government will handle the case after ascertaining related facts, according to a Cheong Wa Dae official.

Seoul's foreign ministry has said the government will try to resolve the issue smoothly while communicating closely with the New Zealand government.

New Zealand has not requested the extradition of the diplomat.

This file photo, taken Dec. 27, 2019, shows the building that houses the New Zealand Embassy in Seoul. (Yonhap)


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