Mark Lippert, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, was stabbed at approximately 5:30 p.m. U.S. EST on March 4 by an infamous protestor who claims the U.S. is blocking reunification of North and South Korea.
Kim Ki-jong, 55, a member of protest group Woorimadang, was arrested by local police shortly after the incident. Witnesses say Ki-jong shouted “South and North Korea should be reunified” as he attacked Lippert with a 10-inch blade. Recent joint military drills by U.S. and South Korean troops incited the attack, South Korean media Yonhap reports.
Lippert was about to give a speech to the Korea Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation organization when he was attacked by Ki-jong. A four-inch gash on Lippert’s right check was closed with 80 stitches, a representative of Seoul’s Severance Hospital told media. Surgery was required to repair nerve and tendon damage to the hand and arm the 42-year-old used to defend himself.
Local authorities are familiar with Ki-jong, who was arrested in 2010 for throwing a hunk of concrete at Japan’s ambassador to the country. He received a two-year suspended sentence. Ki-jong is also reportedly a member of the same organization to which Lippert was to address.
The joint military drills that began on March 2 damaged the possibility of reunification of North and South Korea, Ki-jong told police. North Korean authorities claim the drills were preparation for attack, while U.S. and South Korean officials say they were only for defense training.
On the same date that these annually-practiced drills began, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un ordered two ballistic missiles to be fired into the Sea of Japan in protest. He took the same action when last year’s exercises were done by U.S. and South Korean military, firing approximately 90 missiles in 2014, according to CNN.
While the number of missiles fired may have substantially reduced, North Korea’s overall response has increased in intensity, claiming it is now in preparation for war with the U.S.
Lippert remains hospitalized, but is in stable condition, and should be released in three-to-four days, a hospital representative said. “Doing well & in great spirits,” Lippert tweeted this morning.