Video: US ambassador attacked in South Korea

5 March 2015 04:58 am - 10     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


(Reuters) - U.S. ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist but was not seriously hurt during an attack at a breakfast forum held in the capital on Thursday to discuss Korean reunification, police and witnesses said.

Lippert, 42, was bleeding from a facial wound but was walking after the attack as he was taken to the hospital. He was later reported to be in stable condition and officials in Washington said his injuries were not life-threatening.

The assailant was caught by police and identified as 55-year-old Kim Ki-jong. In 2010, Kim tried to attack the Japanese ambassador to Seoul by throwing a piece of concrete and was given a suspended jail term, according to police.

Witnesses and police said Kim used a small fruit knife in the attack, which took place inside a large government arts center across the street from the heavily guarded U.S. embassy on Seoul's main ceremonial thoroughfare.

"We strongly condemn this act of violence," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

U.S. President Barack Obama quickly called Lippert to wish him a speedy recovery, a White House official said.

The assailant was dressed in traditional Korean clothing and shouted that North and South Korea should be reunited just before he attacked Lippert. He also shouted that he opposed "war exercises", a reference to annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that began this week.

"I carried out an act of terror," Kim shouted as he was pinned to the floor by event attendees.

Kim said while in police custody he had acted alone. South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that Kim also said he was part of a group that had cut and burned a U.S. flag on the embassy grounds in Seoul in 1985.

Kim is a member of the pro-Korean unification group that hosted the event, police said. He also stages one-man protests against Japan over disputed islands known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

"The guy comes in wearing traditional Korean brown and tan dress. He yells something, goes up to the ambassador and slashes him in the face," witness Michael Lammbrau of the Arirang Institute think tank told Reuters.

Police were at the venue as part of routine operations but not at the request of the U.S. embassy or the organizer, a police official said.

"People wrestled the guy to the ground, the ambassador was still in his chair. The ambassador fought him from his seat ... There was a trail of blood behind him. He had about a seven inch-long gash on the right side of his face," Lammbrau said.

Lammbrau said the man shouted about Korean independence while he was being restrained. "It sounded like he was anti-American, anti-imperialist, that kind of stuff."

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, speaking in the United Arab Emirates, called it an "attack on the South Korea-U.S. alliance."

Known for his open, informal style, Lippert is active on Twitter and can often be seen walking his basset hound, Grigsby, in Seoul. His wife recently gave birth to a son, who was given a Korean middle name.

Thursday's event was hosted by the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation. The group later issued a statement in which it condemned the attack and apologized to the governments of the United States and South Korea.

The annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises routinely provoke an angry response from North Korea, which denounces them as a preparation for war.

A South Korean defense ministry spokesman said the exercises, due to run for eight weeks, would continue as planned.

Lippert was a U.S. Senate aide to Obama and served in the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan and Iraq, winning the Bronze Star. He was chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel before taking up his post in Seoul in November.

  Comments - 10

  • Dalu Banda Thursday, 05 March 2015 10:57 AM

    Saw only seeds of love.

    marco Thursday, 05 March 2015 11:04 AM

    US is the route cause of all evil!

    Asiri Friday, 06 March 2015 03:20 PM

    If there is no USA, South Korea would be like North Korea under a dictatorship (so called communist) and very poor. There are certain things what USA does which everyone do not agree.

    Malin Friday, 06 March 2015 10:31 AM

    This is a result of political interference by USA. Bravo the South Korean patriot.

    Malin Friday, 06 March 2015 10:31 AM

    This is a result of political interference by USA. Bravo the South Korean patriot.

    sataro Friday, 06 March 2015 01:18 AM

    weldone via DM Android App

    surasena Thursday, 05 March 2015 01:30 PM

    Need better trained professionals for VIP protection

    Prem Nath Thursday, 05 March 2015 06:51 PM

    Hope the message gets through to the USA.

    James Friday, 06 March 2015 07:09 AM

    This is a inhuman ,cruel attack.I am shocked to see some comments here which seek to callously justify it.The ambassador had indeed tried to reach out to the Korean people by even giving a Korean name for his child.

    Nims Friday, 06 March 2015 07:15 AM

    Who will believe that US will support a genuine re-unification with good intentions.

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