SEOUL (TIP): The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was recovering from surgery on Thursday after having his face and arm slashed by a knife-wielding activist in an attack applauded by North Korean state media.
The United States condemned the “act of violence” which saw the ambassador rushed to hospital where his condition was described as stable after two-and-a-half hours of surgery that included 80 stitches to a deep gash on his right cheek.
Witnesses described how a man armed with a 25-centimetre (10-inch) paring knife had lunged across a table and attacked Lippert at a breakfast function in central Seoul.
The assailant, dressed in traditional Korean clothes and identified as Kim Ki-Jong, 55, was immediately wrestled to the ground and taken into police custody.
During the assault, Kim screamed a slogan in favour of reunifying the divided Korean peninsula, and later shouted his opposition to ongoing joint US-South Korean military exercises.
In a brief despatch, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency called the attack “just punishment” and a valid “expression of resistance” that reflected South Korean public opposition to the joint drills which went ahead over Pyongyang’s bitter protests.
Kim was a known maverick activist who had been handed a two-year suspended sentence in 2010 for throwing a rock at the then Japanese ambassador to Seoul.
Video footage showed Lippert, 42, being rushed from the breakfast event and bundled into a police car, one hand pressing a cloth to his bleeding right cheek, and his other hand and clothes smeared with blood.