South Korea ambassador resigns amid allegations of investigation interference News
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South Korea ambassador resigns amid allegations of investigation interference

South Korean Ambassador to Australia Lee Jong-seop resigned on Friday after 25 days in office. Lee is under investigation for his alleged interference in the investigation of Marine Sergeant Choi Su-geun’s death. Upon his resignation, Lee called upon authorities to quickly conduct an investigation and said he would cooperate.

Lee claimed that the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials has yet to schedule an investigation despite his repeated requests. He also stated that to cooperate with the investigation, he would have to stay in South Korea and be unable to fulfill his diplomatic duty. He therefore resigned from office, and his resignation was later approved by the South Korean foreign affairs minister and the president.

The 2024 South Korean legislative election will take place on April 10. An official from the ruling party suggested that allegations against Lee are a political attack from the opposition since the election period is approaching.

In July 2023, Choi was found dead in a deployment to assist in the disaster relief of Yequan City after heavy rain damage. The Department of Defense Investigation Command later conducted an investigation and concluded that only two lieutenant colonels violated the instructions of the brigade commander and were found guilty. The former leader of the Marine Corps Park Jung-hoon stated that the investigation may have faced external pressure, and Lee was then Minister of National Defense. The National Assembly launched an investigation into the allegations in October 2023.

Lee, however, was appointed as ambassador amid the domestic political controversies in March. Local media reported a comment from a former diplomat stating that the Australian government was dissatisfied by the appointment of an ambassador being involved in domestic political issues, given that it granted the agrément (approval of a diplomatic envoy) without raising any issues considering the friendly relations between the two countries.