New Zealand prime minister says she won’t request extradition of S. Korean diplomat accused of sexual harassment

Posted on : 2020-11-18 18:56 KST Modified on : 2020-11-18 18:56 KST
Local website Stuff reports New Zealand officials have halted efforts to pursue charges
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. (Hankyoreh archives)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. (Hankyoreh archives)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that she won’t ask the South Korean government to extradite a diplomat surnamed Kim, who’s been accused of sexually assaulting a Kiwi employee at the South Korean embassy in New Zealand.

Local news website Stuff reported on Nov. 16 that Ardern suggested that New Zealand would not request extradition in a press conference held after a cabinet meeting on the same day. Ardern was quoted as saying that if Kim’s extradition had been “the option that lay in front of officials, I imagine it would have been pursued,” with the caveat that it was “not a decision made by me.”

“I’d like to think when you look at the range of options we had in front of us, we took one of the most significant that was available and raised it directly with [South Korean President Moon Jae-in],” Ardern was quoted as saying.

“New Zealand officials appear to have halted efforts to pursue the charges [against Kim],” Stuff reported.

During a phone call in July, Ardern asked Moon for his cooperation in the case of Kim’s alleged sexual assault on a Kiwi staffer.

The incident in question goes back to late 2017. A local staffer informed the South Korean embassy in December that he’d been sexually assaulted by Kim in November. The embassy’s human resources committee gave Kim a warning and closed the case.

But the case was picked back up the next year by the audit office at South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), which referred the case to MOFA’s disciplinary committee. Kim ultimately received mild discipline: his pay was docked for one month.

Apart from those proceedings, the staffer filed a petition about the incident to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) in 2018 and reported the sexual assault to the New Zealand police in October 2019. But by the time the police launched an investigation, Kim had already left the country, having finished his assignment in the country in February 2018. Another obstacle faced by the police was a disagreement between the two countries about how an embassy investigation should be handled.

Kim, who had been assigned to the Philippines, was instructed to return home in August and is now back in Korea. While MOFA promised to cooperate if the New Zealand authorities asked for Kim’s extradition, New Zealand hasn’t made that request.

This past September, the NHRCK concluded that Kim had committed sexual harassment and recommended he pay the victim a certain amount of money. But the NHRCK wasn’t convinced by the victim’s additional claim, made in August 2019, that Kim had touched his genitals. “Since the petitioner made this claim after a considerable amount of time had passed since the incident, it’s hard to find corroborating evidence.”

“If he can’t be extradited, just bloody tell us why. There needs to be an inquiry into this,” Stuff quoted the victim as saying in response to Ardern’s remarks.

“The processes of justice need to be exhausted. If the courts decide that Kim is not guilty, well I will respect the court’s decision.”

By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

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