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US Diplomat Mark Lippert Slashed in Seoul Knife Attack

Image: US Diplomat Mark Lippert Slashed in Seoul Knife Attack
(Xinhua/Newsis/Landov)

By    |   Thursday, 05 Mar 2015 06:00 AM

A man screaming demands for a unified North and South Korea slashed U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert on the face and wrist with a knife in downtown Seoul on Thursday.

The attack happened at a performing arts center as the ambassador was preparing for a lecture about prospects for peace on the divided Korean Peninsula, reported The Associated Press.

Immediately after, a stunned-looking Lippert examined his blood-covered left hand and held his right hand over a cut on the right side of his face, his pink tie splattered with blood. The U.S. Embassy later said Lippert was in stable condition after surgery at a Seoul hospital.

In a televised briefing, Chung Nam-sik of the Severance Hospital, said 80 stiches were needed to close the facial wound, which was more than 4 inches long and more than an inch deep.

Chung said the knife penetrated through Lippert's left arm and damaged the nerves connected to his pinkie and tendons connected to his thumb. Lippert will need to be treated at the hospital for the next three or four days and may experience sensory problems in his left hand for several months, Chung said.

The reported comments of the suspect, 55-year-old Kim Ki-jong, during the attack – "South and North Korea should be reunified" – touch on a deep political divide in South Korea over the still-fresh legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which is still technically ongoing because it ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The attack came suddenly, witnesses said. A knife-wielding man ran screaming up to Lippert as soup was being served for the breakfast meeting and began slashing, said Kim Young-man, spokesman for the group hosting the breakfast, the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation. A separate, unidentified witness told local media that as Lippert stood up for a handshake, the suspect wrestled the ambassador to the ground and slashed him with a knife.

Yonhap TV showed men in suits and ties piled on top of the attacker, who was dressed in a modern version of the traditional Korean hanbok, and Lippert later being rushed to a police car with a blood-soaked handkerchief pressed to his cheek. The suspect also shouted anti-war slogans after he was detained, police said. They said the knife was about 10 inches long.

The suspect in the attack appeared to be well-known in Seoul for his willingness to use violence to highlight his grievances.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still happening, said the suspect in 2010 threw a piece of concrete at the Japanese ambassador in Seoul. South Korean media reported that Kim Ki-jong was later sentenced to a three-year suspended prison term over the attack. Kim, who was protesting Japan's claim to small disputed islands that are occupied by South Korea, missed the ambassador with the concrete and hit his secretary instead, the reports said.

Kim also reportedly tried to set himself on fire with gasoline while protesting in front of the presidential Blue House in October 2007. He was demanding a government investigation into an alleged 1988 rape in Kim's office, according to news reports.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning the attack and vowing a thorough investigation and strengthened protection of embassies. South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who is on a Middle East tour, said in a statement that what happened was "not only a physical attack on the U.S. ambassador in South Korea but also an attack on the Korea-U.S. alliance and we will not tolerate it."

Lippert, 42, became ambassador in October of last year and has been a regular presence on social media and in speeches and presentations during his time in Seoul. His wife gave birth here and the couple gave their son a Korean middle name. Lippert was formerly the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian Affairs and a foreign policy aide to President Barack Obama when Obama was a U.S. senator.

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A man screaming demands for a unified North and South Korea slashed U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert on the face and wrist with a knife in downtown Seoul on Thursday.
us, diplomat, mark lippert, seoul, knife, attack
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2015-00-05
Thursday, 05 Mar 2015 06:00 AM
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