Joint diplomatic steps
The government has taken an inevitable step of ordering home a diplomat alleged to have indecently assaulted a local embassy worker in 2017 in New Zealand.
The action follows New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raising the issue in a phone call with President Moon Jae-in about a week ago, and other senior ranking officials urging Seoul to take action.
The Foreign Ministry has said that it will cooperate on criminal matters and extradition if the New Zealand side makes an official request, within the scope of diplomatic immunity.
It is the due course of action, albeit belated. Back in 2017, a local staff member at the Korean Embassy in Wellington reported that the diplomat, then a deputy ambassador, allegedly groped him on over three occasions. There was no action taken by the embassy. The alleged victim then filed a complaint with the National
Human Rights Commission of Korea. The Korean diplomat, who was ordered home from his post in the Philippines, did not cooperate with the commission nor with the ongoing New Zealand police investigation. The diplomat received a light disciplinary warning after returning to Seoul in 2018.
A South Korean foreign ministry official noted that New Zealand highlighting the issue in the leaders’ phone call was considered very unusual diplomatic practice. The series of developments, however, makes it hard to dismiss New Zealand’s concerns that Seoul is dragging its feet.
Allegations of indecent assault are grave, a matter that the two countries should work through in juridical proceedings. Seoul should fully cooperate on any official requests from Wellington and the latter should also trustfully work with its official counterpart to resolve the matter.