Seoul: South Korea`s foreign minister has apologised over an alleged steamy sex-for-favours scandal that has rocked the country`s consulate in Shanghai.
"I feel very ashamed of a scandalous affair at our consulate in Shanghai," Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan told a parliamentary session.
He said the government would launch a special joint investigation into the scandal involving three Korean diplomats who are now in Seoul after leaving their posts in China`s biggest city.
Media reports say the three were suspected of having affairs with the same Chinese woman, who allegedly used her influence over them in seeking visas for Chinese workers. The woman`s exact role and motives remain unclear.
She was also said to have received confidential information such as mobile phone numbers for leading members of South Korea`s ruling party and other high-profile figures.
The case of what one paper described as the "sexy Shanghai siren" hit the headlines this week.
Kim said a letter of complaint in January prompted the foreign ministry and the prime minister`s office to conduct their own probe.
The diplomats to Shanghai were from the foreign, knowledge economy and justice ministries, an official at the prime minister`s office told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Reports say the tip-off came from the Korean husband of the Chinese woman, who wrote to the Seoul government to complain about the diplomats` allegedly intimate relations with his wife.
He presented pictures of her taken with each of the diplomats, which have now been splashed across front pages in Seoul.
The three -- who were summoned back to Seoul -- have denied they had affairs with the woman, who reportedly acted as a conduit to senior Chinese officials and arranged meetings with visitors from Seoul.
In November 2008 she reportedly used her influence to ensure that Beijing allowed 11 North Korean escapees who took refuge at the consular office to leave for Seoul en masse.
Newspapers focused on the alleged favours provided by the diplomats.
The Korea JoongAng Daily, in an editorial headlined "The scandal in Shanghai", said the case "sounds like a steamy soap opera involving infidelity, secrets and a femme fatale".
It called on the government to "correct the moral standards of our diplomats" and fix problems associated with visa issuance.