A Chinese diplomat at the wheel of a car with diplomatic license plates refused to take an alcoholic breath test for over eight-and-a-half hours.
His identification was confirmed as a diplomat only when an official from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) arrived, and he left without taking the test.
The trouble lies in the different interpretation of diplomatic immunity of Korean police and the Chinese diplomat, explained officials from MOFAT and the Chinese Embassy.
However, people in the diplomatic arena are raising questions on the possibility of other issues behind the scene.
That is, there are speculations that the Chinese diplomat was a person whose identity was not supposed to be known.
The Chinese diplomats attitude was quite strange because he would have been waved on if he had confirmed his diplomatic status, said a police official.
Who was in the car?
The police stopped a silver Sonata with diplomatic license plates on a road in Daehyeon-dong, Seoul at 9:50 p.m. on Tuesday. The police asked the driver to take a breathalyzer, but the driver did not even open the window. Thus, the police blocked the vehicle with a patrol car from fleeing the scene.
Around 11:00 p.m., an official from the Chinese Embassy came and claimed diplomatic immunity. Until an official from MOFAT came to the scene around 5 a.m. the following day and confirmed the drivers identity, the police did not even have the chance to confirm the driver.
The police let the Chinese diplomat go because the official from MOFAT said that the ministry will be fully responsible should there be some mistake.
MOFAT identified the driver as Mr. Chang, a third secretary at the Chinese Embassy, on Wednesday. In relation to other people inside the vehicle, the Chinese Embassy said, the identity of the other people cannot be confirmed.
There are issues surrounding the diplomatic immunity claim by the Chinese official.
First, diplomatic immunity cannot be claimed without revealing ones identity. Diplomats first must obey domestic law in a foreign country where they are posted before they claim diplomatic rights, said a police official.
In response, the Chinese Embassy is repeatedly saying, The drivers identity was revealed. There was some misunderstanding on the road.
Next, diplomatic rights and the duty to follow the regulation of the country the diplomats are staying of Vienna Convention are contradictory. The two provisions are contradictory, and the interpretation differs in each country, said an official of MOFAT on Wednesday.