6 Mar 2015

US ambassador 'well' after knife attack

9:14 am on 6 March 2015

The US ambassador to South Korea who was attacked at a meeting in Seoul says that he is doing well "and in great spirits".

Mark Lippert

Mark Lippert following the attack. Photo: AFP

A militant Korean nationalist slashed the face of Mark Lippert, 42, at a breakfast meeting yesterday.

Mr Lippert was also cut on his left hand, but narrowly survived serious injury.

Security officers subdued the attacker, one pinning him down with a shoe on his neck, until he was arrested.

North Korea described the attack as "just punishment for US warmongers".

In a statement on state media, it said the attacker had delivered a "knife shower of justice".

US Secretary of State John Kerry reacted by saying America would not be "intimidated or deterred by threats or by anybody who harms any American diplomats".

The attacker, named as Kim Ki-jong, 55, appears to have broken his ankle during the attack and was taken away on an ambulance trolley after questioning.

Mr Lippert had hospital treatment but later wrote in a tweet: "Doing well and in great spirits... Will be back ASAP to advance US-ROK [Republic of Korea] alliance!"

South Korean President Park Guen-hye condemned what she called an "attack on the South Korea-US alliance".

Local people held a protest against the attack outside the hospital where Mr Lippert was treated, waving placards which read "Mark Lippert, Cheer up!" and "Korea-US relationship is solid".

Eighty stitches

The attack happened at about 07:40 local time (22:40 GMT Wednesday), as the ambassador was at a performing arts centre in central Seoul.

It took 80 stitches to close his facial wound, which was 11cm (just more than 4 in) long and 3cm deep, doctors said.

The cut did not affect his nerves or salivary gland, hospital spokesman Chung Nam-sik said.

South Koreans hold a vigil to wish for Mark Lippert's quick recovery.

South Koreans hold a vigil to wish for Mark Lippert's quick recovery. Photo: AFP

Lew Dae-hyun, a plastic surgeon at Yonsei University's Severance Hospital, said Mr Lippert had narrowly escaped having much more serious injuries.

"If the cut had been one to two centimetres deeper than it is now, it could have damaged the carotid on the upper neck, which could have turned it into a serious emergency situation," he said.

"It could have been life-threatening."

Seoul is not considered to be a particularly high-threat post for US diplomats.