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0 2020-08-02 06:58:37
New Zealand pressuring South Korea to co-operate in diplomat sex assault case
2 Aug, 2020 7:16am
3 minutes to read
Korean diplomat Hongkon Kim faces charges of sexual assault in Wellington. Photo / Bevan Conley
Korean diplomat Hongkon Kim faces charges of sexual assault in Wellington. Photo / Bevan Conley
 
South Korea is facing pressure to let the justice system take its course, instead of protecting a diplomat accused of sexual assault in New Zealand.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the Herald she raised the matter with Korean President Moon Jae-in in their phone conversation last week.
"She expressed her disappointment that the Korean Government was unable to waive immunity to allow aspects of the police investigation into this matter to proceed," the spokesman said.
"The matter now rests with the Korean Government to determine any next steps."
 
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Hongkon Kim, the former Deputy Ambassador to New Zealand is accused of three counts of indecent assault at the Wellington embassy in 2017.
The charges relate to alleged incidents involving a male staff member at the embassy.
A warrant for his arrest was issued by a Wellington District Court judge in late February.
However, Kim had pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains overseas.
 
 
NZ has made strong representation about the case to the South Korean Government. Photo / Supplied
 
NZ has made strong representation about the case to the South Korean Government. Photo / Supplied
The Korean Government has so far refused to co-operate in getting him back to New Zealand to face trial, and he has instead been posted to the Philippines where he is currently serving as Consul-General.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said New Zealand "has made strong representation about this case" to the South Korean Embassy and the South Korean Government in Seoul, including both the Ambassador to Seoul and the South Korean Ambassador in NZ.
 
"We have engaged at senior levels with South Korean government officials and they are well aware of our views," an MFAT spokesman said.
 
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The ministry became aware of the police investigation concerning Kim in August last year.
 
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"We are sensitive to the matters raised in this case and acknowledge the distress expressed by the individual concerned," the spokesman said.
"International law is clear when it comes to issues of diplomatic conduct. All diplomats are expected to respect the laws and regulations of the country where they are posted."
The ministry sought waivers of diplomatic immunity from the South Korean Government to allow police to conduct evidential inquiries at the South Korean Embassy in Wellington in September.
 
 
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is disappointed at South Korea's unwillingness to waive immunity. Photo / Supplied
 
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is disappointed at South Korea's unwillingness to waive immunity. Photo / Supplied
"This request, conveyed to both the Ambassador in Wellington and South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul, was declined," he said.
"This was a disappointing decision."
Kim left NZ in February 2018, and the MFAT spokesman said diplomatic immunity for the former diplomat no longer applied as he was no more accredited to NZ.
 
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"NZ's position is that we expect all diplomats to follow the laws of the country there are in, to be legally accountable for their actions and to allow NZ police to conduct their investigations," the ministry spokesman said.
"We expect the same high standards of our government staff when posted there."
A source close to the victim told the Herald he remains hopeful justice will eventually be served.
He is being supported by survivors group MOSAIC, where he has reached out for help.
 
 
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