Korean diplomat accused of sexual assault in Wellington urged to come back to NZ and defend himself

Winston Peters has urged a Korean diplomat accused of sexual assault to come back to New Zealand and defend himself.

Hongkon Kim, the Asian nation's former Deputy Ambassador to New Zealand, has been accused of three counts of indecent assault at the Wellington embassy in 2017. He is currently representing his country as Consul-General to the Philippines, which has no extradition treaty with New Zealand. 

Korean officials blocked police's efforts to investigate the alleged crimes, which carry penalties of up to seven years in jail. A warrant for his arrest was issued in February. 

"We've taken it to the very highest level between the Foriegn Affairs Department and their Foriegn Affairs Department, all the way," Peters - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs - told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"Now remember this - the crime which he is alleged to have committed is a crime in our country - it's not a crime in Korea. But when in Rome, you do what the Romans do. He did it in New Zealand, that's the allegation. 

"It's over to the Korean government, and for them to allow him to waive the diplomatic immunity and return him to this country."

Alternatively, Peters said if Kim thinks he's innocent, he could come back here of his own accord.

"If he was innocent as he thought, he could come back and submit himself to our judicial procedures himself. However he does have something called diplomatic immunity, and that's worldwide protection - not in cases like this.

The case has hit the headlines in Korea, Peters hoping the "national disgrace" - as Korean journalist Raphael Rashid called it - will prompt Kim to do the right thing.

"This is now at the highest level, it's with President Moon... I don't think we can do any more than wait."