Senior Education Ministry official Kry Seang Long was charged with sexually assaulting his interpreter during an official visit to South Korea in late May and released after the Cambodian Embassy intervened and paid more than $12,000 in fines, Cambodian and South Korean officials said on Wednesday.
Mr. Seang Long, who attended the three-day 2016 Asean+3 HRD Forum in Seoul between May 23 and 25, stopped short of admitting to the crime on Wednesday, but said the matter was “already solved.”
A Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency official, who declined to give his name for legal reasons, confirmed that a Cambodian Education Ministry official was arrested in Seoul on May 26 for sexually molesting his interpreter.
“He was sentenced to [pay] $5,000 and set free,” the police official said by telephone. “He was suspected for sexual assault.”
Although Cambodian authorities have made no public comments about the case in the weeks since Mr. Seang Long’s arrest, it did not escape the attention of South Korean media.
On June 2, Korean news website Yes! Top News reported that a 44-year-old Cambodian official was arrested at 10 p.m. on May 26 in Seoul’s Guro-gu district. In an article published on Tuesday, the News1 Korea site stated that the official’s interpreter called police after he forcefully wrapped his arms around her waist and attempted to kiss her. Prosecutors asked that the official be barred from future visits to South Korea, the article said.
According to a June 9 letter sent to the Foreign Affairs Ministry by Long Dimanche, Cambodia’s new ambassador to South Korea, the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office agreed to release Mr. Seang Long after the Education Ministry agreed to pay 14.1 million won, or about $12,300, in fines.
“I would like to inform His Excellency [Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn] that on the evening of June 8, 2016, at 17:50 p.m. (Korean time), the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office decided to completely drop the charge and release Kry Seang Long from the Nambu detention center in Seoul,” the letter said.
“But the prosecutor decided to require a 3.6 million won fine; 5 million won in fines for paying the victim; and 5.5 million won as a lawyer’s fee,” it said, adding that “this whole budget was provided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport for settling compensation.”
According to the letter, the embassy issued three separate diplomatic notes requesting intervention to secure Mr. Seang Long’s release: one to the judge’s office on May 27; a second to the prosecutor’s office on June 3; and a third to South Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on June 5.
“In addition, embassy officials and I met the prosecutor two times and met Kry Seang Long in person four times. Currently, Kry Seang Long is staying at the embassy and will return to Cambodia on June 10.”
Mr. Dimanche declined to comment on the case.
Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin said in a text message that “no Ministry officials had mission to Korea” over the “last fews [sic] week[s].” He did not respond to further requests for comment.
Chum Sounry, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, confirmed that an Education Ministry official was arrested, charged and released in Seoul, but said he did not know the man’s name or position. “Because of the embassy’s intervention, this issue was solved,” he said.
In a series of Facebook messages on Wednesday evening, Mr. Seang Long did not explicitly admit to assaulting his interpreter, but said: “The problem is already solved.”
He declined to provide details about the incident and urged reporters not to publish a story about it.
“[P]lease do not publish it,” he said. “I beg you.”
A brochure posted to the 2016 Asean+3 HRD Forum’s Facebook page bills the three-day conference as a training event for promoting human-resource skills in emerging economies.
Photographs of Mr. Long’s visit to Seoul for the forum posted to his Facebook page show him eating South Korean food, posing under a rose trellis and touring the “careers-themed experience park” JobWorld. Other photos show him receiving a medal from Prime Minister Hun Sen and attending past conferences in Bali, Bangkok and South Korea.
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