South Korea’s New Ambassador to Australia Set for Seoul Meeting Amid Investigation

SEOUL — Lee Jong-sup, South Korea's recently appointed ambassador to Australia, is expected to visit Seoul next month for a diplomatic meeting, amidst ongoing scrutiny over his alleged involvement in an influence-peddling case tied to a Marine's death last year.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Lee, who served as South Korea's defense minister from 2022 to 2023, departed for Australia without the traditional letter of credence from President Yoon Suk Yeol. This procedural step was bypassed when the justice ministry lifted a travel restriction on Lee, allowing him to assume his diplomatic post. Typically, new envoys participate in a credential ceremony at the presidential office, but in Lee's case, this has been deferred, with plans to deliver the official document via diplomatic channels due to scheduling issues.

The Foreign Ministry clarified that the credential ceremony might be scheduled during Lee's upcoming visit to Seoul for the annual meeting with heads of South Korean diplomatic missions abroad. Although Lee has yet to present his credentials to the Australian foreign ministry, this submission is a formality that will enable him to perform most ambassadorial duties.

Lee's tenure as ambassador is overshadowed by ongoing investigations into his purported role in delaying an internal Marine investigation into Corporal Chae Su-geun's death in July of the previous year. The inquiry by the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials aims to ascertain whether Lee improperly influenced the probe's findings related to Chae's fatal incident during a search operation in severe weather conditions.

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