U.S. ambassador to South Korea was attacked

ALASTAIR GALE and JEYUP S. KWAAK-- The Wall Street Journal

SEOUL—The U.S. ambassador to South Korea was injured in an attack on Thursday by a man wielding a knife and shouting anti-American statements, U.S. officials, local police and witnesses said.

Ambassador Mark Lippert, 42 years old, received treatment at a Seoul hospital for injuries to his face. An official at the U.S. embassy said Mr. Lippert was in “stable condition” and his injuries weren’t life threatening.

Police identified the suspect as Kim Ki-jong and said he had been quickly apprehended and was being questioned. They said he lunged at Mr. Lippert with a 25-centimeter (10-inch) knife at a lecture hall in downtown Seoul around 7:40 a.m.

Mr. Kim couldn’t be reached for comment and it wasn’t known if he had legal representation.

 

Television footage showed Mr. Lippert walking from the scene to a police car and holding his face with a cloth. Blood spatters marked his hand, face, neck and clothing. Footage later showed the ambassador arriving at the hospital and saying, “I’m OK.”

A spokeswoman for the State Department said embassy officials were coordinating with South Korean police on the investigation. Police said Mr. Kim was being questioned to determine the motive for the attack. Eyewitnesses told local media that Mr. Kim shouted that he opposed military drills being conducted in South Korea by local and U.S. forces. Mr. Kim, who wore a traditional Korean hanbok outfit, also called for Korean reunification.

The eyewitnesses said the attacker approached Mr. Lippert, who was seated, from behind and pushed him forward before cutting him. Mr. Lippert attempted to fend off the attack while still in his seat, they said. Initial reports had said the weapon was a razorblade.

Mr. Kim was arrested in 2010 for throwing pieces of concrete at Japan’s ambassador to South Korea and received a suspended jail term. His personal website shows his involvement in activism to oppose Japan’s claim to islets controlled by South Korea and known internationally as the Liancourt Rocks. Recent postings on his site also show his opposition to the military exercises being held by U.S. and South Korean forces.

The annual drills began earlier this week and are a source of tension with North Korea, which portrays them as preparations for an invasion. South Korea and the U.S. say the drills are necessary to ensure readiness in case of a North Korean attack.

Mr. Kim was escorted out of the police station where he was being questioned on a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance around 11 a.m. after telling police he was sick. He repeatedly told gathered media, “I oppose war drills.” Local reports said Mr. Kim had previously tried to set himself on fire in a protest near the presidential Blue House in 2007.

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