Chinese consul caught drunk driving, claims diplomatic immunity

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Chinese consul caught drunk driving, claims diplomatic immunity

A diplomat working at the Chinese consulate in the southwestern city of Gwangju was caught by police while driving under the influence, according to police on Wednesday.
 
According to the Gwangju Seobu Police Precinct, a 30-year-old Chinese consul was caught drunk driving in an apartment complex's underground parking lot in Pungam-dong, Seo District of Gwangju around midnight on Sunday.
 
A passerby suspected the driver to be drunk and reported him to the police. At the time he was apprehended, the diplomat’s blood alcohol level was above 0.08 percent — high enough for his license to be canceled.
 
During the subsequent investigation, the intoxicated consul claimed diplomatic immunity. Police are debating whether the consul’s drunk driving is covered by diplomatic immunity.
 
Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are not subject to lawsuits or criminal prosecution under the host country’s law for crimes connected with their diplomatic role.
 
However, according to police, the Chinese diplomat claimed he was coming home from meeting a Chinese student who was in the hospital, and that immunity applied in this case because he was conducting official duties at the time.
 
Police have requested confirmation from the Foreign Ministry that diplomatic immunity would apply in the consul’s case. A police source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “Should the Foreign Ministry acknowledge that diplomatic immunity applies here, we will close the case.”
 
He added that police will “handle the incident in accordance with the law and established procedure.”
 
This is not the first case in which diplomatic officials posted in Korea have been caught driving recklessly.
 
In September 2013, then-Lebanese Ambassador Jad Saeed al-Hassan was involved in a hit-and-run in Seoul. He hit a car that was waiting for a left-turn signal in front of the Capital Hotel in Itaewon, central Seoul, but drove directly to the Lebanese diplomatic compound and refused to cooperate with police, claiming diplomatic immunity.
 
He died in another car crash in a tunnel leaving Itaewon a year later, after his car hit a vehicle in front of him and then careened into the wall.
 
BY MICHAEL LEE   [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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