SEOUL, March 16 (Korea Bizwire) — Criticism is growing over the moral hazard of some foreign diplomats in South Korea who are abusing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The foreign diplomats and their families cannot be punished under domestic law even if they commit crimes. Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, they are exempted from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state.
The driver of a private vehicle ran away after colliding with a taxi and causing slight injuries to a passenger in Seoul last week. Later, it was found that the private vehicle belonged to the Sudanese embassy to Seoul.
Chances are high that the driver will be exempted from punishment due to diplomatic immunity.
Since benefits are given to diplomats, there are some cases in which they use their diplomatic immunity as a shield against investigation.
A good example of this is the chairman of Mongolia’s Constitutional Court who claimed diplomatic immunity after being arrested on the spot for sexually harassing a flight attendant.
The number of foreign diplomats in South Korea who were exempted from punishment despite committing crimes here during the period from 2015 to June 2019 totaled 63.
In the past, traffic law violations accounted for the majority of the cases, but recently, the share of violent crimes such as battery and sexual assault is increasing, stoking more worries about diplomatic immunity.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responds to such cases by sending official letters of protest to the embassies concerned or summoning the heads of the embassies, while consulting on adequate measures with judicial authorities.
At present, the only way to punish foreign diplomats who commit serious crimes like murder is to negotiate with the sending state to give up diplomatic immunity.
J. S. Shin (email@example.com)