US ambassador to South Korea attacked with knife

Suspect said he attacked the ambassador to protest against the annual military exercises by South Korea and the US

U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert after the attack
(Image credit: 2015 The Asia Economy Daily)

The American ambassador to South Korea was attacked with a knife by a man shouting anti-war slogans during a public event at an arts centre in Seoul.

The ambassador, Mark Lippert, was slashed in the face and wrist as he was preparing to give a lecture on the possibility of peace in the divided Korean Peninsula.

Robert Ogburn, minister-counsellor for public affairs at the American Embassy, said that Lippert was in a stable condition after undergoing surgery for the knife wounds he suffered during the attack. The ambassador required 80 stitches to treat a four-inch cut on the right side of his face. He also suffered injuries to his left arm and hand, but doctors said that the wounds were not life threatening and that he was likely to recover the full function of all his injured fingers.

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On Thursday, Lippert sent a tweet that read "Doing well and in great spirits! … Will be back ASAP to advance US-ROK (Republic of Korea) alliance".

Doing well&in great spirits! Robyn, Sejun, Grigsby & I - deeply moved by the support! Will be back ASAP to advance US-ROK alliance! 같이 갑시다! — Mark Lippert (@mwlippert) March 5, 2015

The suspect was identified by police as Kim Ki-jong, 55. Kim has a previous conviction from 2010 for throwing rocks at the then Japanese ambassador to Seoul, Al Jazeera reports.

"We have detained him and are investigating the cause of the attack and other circumstances," said district police chief Yoon Myung-soon.

Before he was led away, Kim told reporters at the scene that he had attacked the ambassador in protest against the joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the US, which began this week.

According to left-wing activists in Seoul, the exercises raise tensions with North Korea and "hamper efforts to build reconciliation on the divided Korean Peninsula", the New York Times reports.

Some radical South Korean activists "view the United States as a colonial power unjustly subjugating South Korea with US troops presence," said Professor Lee Sung-yoon, a Korea expert at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts. They resent the proxy war waged by the Soviet Union and the US in the 1950s and believe that the continued presence of American soldiers on the peninsula hampers the path to reunification for the two Koreas.

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