S.Korean police want to question Belgian ambassador's wife after store incident prompts anger

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean police said on Wednesday they wanted to question the wife of Belgian Ambassador Peter Lescouhier after receiving a complaint about an alleged assault on a member of staff in a clothes store.

Footage from a security camera showed a woman slap a storekeeper who tried to stop her approaching a colleague. The colleague had suspected she was trying to leave the shop with an item of clothing she had not paid for.

The video of the incident on April 9 appeared on social media this week, prompting an angry response from some South Koreans who demanded an apology from the Belgian embassy.

The footage also appeared to show Xiang Xueqiu speaking with two police officers at the scene. Since then, police have not been able to contact her, saying it was because Xiang was in hospital.

Reuters was unable to identify which hospital and could not immediately reach her for comment on the alleged incident.

"Police who were dispatched to the scene identified her as the wife of the Belgian ambassador," said a police officer at a police station in Yongsan, an area of the capital where the embassy and the store are located.

"We have sought her attendance, but as you see in local media, she cannot be reached since she is in the hospital."

South Korea's foreign ministry told Reuters it had urged the Belgian embassy to cooperate on the matter and that it would take appropriate measures based on further police investigation.

The Belgian embassy in Seoul confirmed that Xiang had been hospitalized, but made no further comment. A spokeswoman for the Belgian foreign ministry declined to comment.

Some South Koreans voiced frustration over what they said were unfair privileges for diplomats and their families.

"I do believe that diplomatic immunity is important and should be respected, but considering the incident involves the ambassador's family ... the ambassador should make an official apology," Lee Hyun-koo, 32, told Reuters.

(Reporting by Daewoung Kim, Dogyun Kim, Minwoo Park; Writing by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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