Korean diplomat accused of sexual assault in NZ a 'national disgrace' at home

All over screens in South Korea, allegations of assault against a senior official are becoming a source of national shame.

Last week Newshub Nation revealed Korea had blocked a police investigation into diplomat Hongkon Kim.

The former Deputy Ambassador to New Zealand is accused of three counts of indecent assault at the Wellington embassy in 2017.

Speaking to Newshub Nation, Korea-based journalist Raphael Rashid said the response in South Korea has been scathing.

"Headlines are calling this a national disgrace, if not an international disgrace, and I think it's going to be a headache for President Moon Jae-in, potentially a diplomatic nightmare."

Korea stopped police examining the building, refused to share their CCTV footage and wouldn't allow staff to be questioned claiming diplomatic immunity instead.

Korean opposition parties call it a coverup, and the diplomatic fallout has become so great it was raised this week at the highest level on a call between the South Korean President and Jacinda Ardern.

"I did raise with the Korean President when we spoke, our disappointment that diplomatic immunity was not waived during the course of those investigations," Ardern told Newshub.  

"I certainly felt as though the President heard those concerns." 

Kim is still representing his country as Consul-General to the Philippines. New Zealand Police want him here to answer charges. But Ardern shut down questions before extradition could be discussed.

Newshub Nation understands police told the victim Kim can't be extradited to New Zealand because he hasn't been found guilty in court.

Grant Illingworth QC is an extradition law expert and isn't convinced.

"That doesn't sound at all correct to me."

 He says it applies after guilty verdicts and when a person is facing trial.

"Those two categories are well-recognised in extradition law and I'd be very surprised if that analysis is inapplicable in this case."

Kim's posting in the Philippines complicates the process, but extradition is not off the cards.

New Zealand has no extradition treaty with the Philippines and police say without one it's not possible under the law.

But New Zealand does have an agreement with Korea, and Illingworth says if Kim returned to his country, police could apply to bring him here.

"The Korean Government could recall that officer back to Korea, once back in Korea then the person could be extradited in the normal way."

The complainant is a male New Zealand citizen. Survivors group MOSAIC has reached out to help and CEO Richard Jeffery says they are offering as much support as they can

"He's shown a lot of courage coming forward, he's under a lot of pressure but he's an extremely resilient person."

Meanwhile, according to Rashid, pressure in Korea is slowly building.

 "Some say that he should be sent to New Zealand for questioning," he says. 

 As a Kiwi waits in hope that justice is served.