Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Wounded US diplomat leaves Seoul hospital after knifing

FEELING GOOD:Mark Lippert said that his mission to be ‘open and friendly’ would not change because of the attack on Thursday last week, though he would not discuss new security measures

AP, SEOUL

US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert speaks at a new conference as he leaves the Severance Hospital in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: AFP

US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert yesterday left a Seoul hospital after five days of treatment because of a knife attack by a man screaming about Korean unification, vowing not to change his “open and friendly” approach to diplomacy.

Lippert told reporters assembled at Severance Hospital that he felt “pretty darn good, all things considered” after the “scary incident” on Thursday last week, when police say an anti-US activist slashed his face and left arm during a breakfast forum in Seoul.

Lippert, his face bandaged and his arm in a brace, would not comment on the specifics of the attack because of the police investigation.

He refused to discuss possible new security measures, except to say US officials would take “a hard look” at procedures in South Korea and then make a decision.

“We have made it our mission to be open and friendly and that will not change,” he said.

Lippert, who has endeared himself to many South Koreans by regularly walking his basset hound around his compound in downtown Seoul and giving his newborn son a Korean middle name, said he was deeply moved by messages of support.

Before the attack, Lippert was guarded by a single, unarmed South Korean policeman in plain clothes.

His role was to accompany Lippert to events and to coordinate with embassy security operations, a police official with knowledge of the arrangements told Reuters.

“Once he is sent out to the embassy, he doesn’t report to us,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

Until the attack, Lippert was the only head of a diplomatic mission in Seoul assigned such protection, according to the US Department of State.

Since then, Seoul has ordered increased security for diplomatic missions, including the US embassy.

Lippert said the attack would only strengthen an “unbreakable bond” between Seoul and Washington as the allies work to deepen military, economic and cultural ties.

Doctors removed the 80 stitches needed to close the cut on Lippert’s face, Severance’s general director Yoon Do-heum told reporters.

Yoon said the ambassador still feels some pain in his arm, but it is manageable with medicine and he may experience sensory problems in his left hand for several months.

The alleged attacker, known as an anti-US activist who was previously convicted of hurling a piece of concrete at the Japanese ambassador in Seoul in 2010, was arrested on Friday last week.

Kim Ki-jong could face charges including attempted murder.

Police said the motive for Kim’s action was not known, but he shouted after the attack that he opposes the ongoing annual US-South Korea military drills that North Korea condemns as a preparation for a northward invasion. Seoul and Washington call the drills defensive and routine.

Critics have raised fears that Park’s conservative government might use the attack to crack down on those seen as pro-North Korea. They say Park’s government already infringes on freedom of speech in the name of coping with North Korea sympathizers.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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