by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
North Korea has applauded the South Korean assailant’s knife attack on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert, calling it a “deserved punishment” for America’s joint military drills with Seoul.
Lippert, 42, received 80 stitches to close a 4-inch gash on his cheek and sustained some nerve damage in his left hand. After a successful surgery, the U.S. ambassador tweeted that he was in “great spirits” and promised to return to his duties as soon as possible.
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 attack occurred Thursday at 7:40 a.m. KST during a breakfast forum at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul, where Lippert was scheduled to deliver a speech.
Lippert was starting to eat the first course of his breakfast when Kim Ki-jong, a 55-year-old political extremist, screamed, “South and North Korea should be reunified” before slashing the ambassador’s face and wrist with a 10-inch blade. Kim was immediately pinned to the ground and arrested by the police.
Witnesses described the incident to unfold too quickly for security to prevent the knife attack in time, according to Reuters.
North Korea’s state-run media, the Korean Central News Agency, later crowed that Kim delivered “knife slashes of justice.” The agency added that the attack reflected the South Korean people’s protests against the U.S. for raising tensions in the Korean Peninsula through joint military drills with Seoul, according to Yonhap.
The U.S. State Department condemned the violent attack, while South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the incident an “attack on the Korea-U.S. alliance” and phoned Lippert in the hospital, wishing him a speedy recovery.
The Associated Press noted that Kim is a well-known among police and activists as an anti-U.S. and Japan extremist. In 1985, Kim participated along with other hard-core protesters in slashing and burning the American flag on the embassy grounds. He was also sentenced to prison for three years in 2010 after throwing a piece of concrete at the Japanese ambassador to Seoul. In addition, he visited North Korea with a civic group eight times between 2006 and 2007, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
After his arrest on Thursday, Kim told police that he had attacked Lippert to protest the joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea, claiming that it ruined efforts for reconciliation efforts between the two Koreas.
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said it was the first time a foreign ambassador to South Korea had been injured in a violent attack.
Since his appointment last October, Lippert has proved himself to be a popular ambassador during his stay in Seoul, as he often posts updates on social media and regularly delivers speeches. His wife gave birth in the capital city, and the couple gave their son a Korean middle name.
Featured image via Yonhap/Reuters