REPORTING FROM SEOUL — The North Korean ambassador to Germany wriggled off the hook of a minor fine when he cited diplomatic immunity after being caught illegally poaching fish in a river in Berlin, authorities reported.
Ambassador Ri Si Hong, who was appointed in September 2011, was spotted earlier this week fishing on the bank of the Havel River in southwestern Berlin.
German officials, who strictly regulate fishing, moved in to investigate, according to German media. But Ri waved them off, refusing to reel in his line, standing behind his diplomatic status.
He merely smiled, announcing that he was the North Korean ambassador, and then continued fishing.
Because of the envoy's diplomatic immunity, officers backed away from issuing any sanction. But they warned Ri to respect the law of the country where he works.
“My colleagues are extremely frustrated -- we catch a diplomat committing a crime and cannot do anything,” local police official Klaus Eisenreich complained in the German media.
The river is popular with fishermen who illegally troll for perch and bass. Convicted poachers can face a jail sentence of up to two years in Germany. But most of those caught get away with a fine.
In recent years, numerous foreign diplomats in Berlin have abused their diplomatic immunity, failing to appear in court for traffic violations, exploiting domestic employees and even committing theft, according to German media.
North Korean officials refused to comment on the matter. An embassy official told one reporter that "all journalists are dirt" before hanging up.
-- John M. Glionna