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South Korea’s China ambassador faces abuse probe as President Yoon gets no respite after election rout

One attaché reportedly filed formal complaints with Seoul’s foreign ministry, accompanied by audio recordings of the ambassador’s alleged abusive conduct.

“The necessary investigation concerning Ambassador Chung is under way per relevant procedures,” a ministry official told This Week in Asia. He declined to give further details including whether an audit team had been dispatched to Beijing and how long the inspection would last.

In a statement sent to correspondents in China earlier, Chung said media reports on the case were based on a “one-sided claim”. He gave no further details, citing the forthcoming probe.

Since the staff abuse allegations surfaced early last month, Chung has reportedly been maintaining his duties, including organising the screening of Korean cinema shows for foreign ambassadors in Beijing, but he has stopped seeing Korean correspondents in the city.

The inspection, initially expected to start earlier this month, had been put off until the end of the April 10 parliamentary elections in an apparent bid to avoid influencing vote results.

Chung’s case is closely watched as President Yoon is under growing pressure to reshuffle the government and dismiss his unpopular loyalists after his ruling conservative People Power Party suffered a rout at the elections.

The 64-year-old former international relations professor at Seoul National University was appointed in June 2022 as the first envoy to China under Yoon’s administration.

Former defence minister Lee Jong-sup, who had been appointed as ambassador to Australia last month, returned home and gave up the post in less than a month as his appointment sparked allegations that the government is seeking to help him escape justice.

Lee has been under investigation for