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US envoy to South Korea attacked in Seoul

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert is seen after being attacked in Seoul on March 5, 2015. (AP Photo)

US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert has suffered injuries following an attack by an armed assailant in the capital city of Seoul.

According to the YTN news channel, Lippert was attacked while he was on his way to a breakfast meeting in the Sejong Cultural Institute in central Seoul on Thursday.

The report showed the ambassador after the attack with his left hand covered in blood.

According to police reports, the attacker was armed with a blade, which he used to slash the ambassador's wrist and face.

Following the attack, Lippert, 42, was rushed to hospital, where his injuries were reported not life threatening. 

A spokesperson for the Korea Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, which was hosting the breakfast meeting, apologized for the lack of security at the function.

"This man suddenly jumped out of the audience seat when the breakfast was about to start at the table," AFP quoted the unnamed spokesperson as telling reporters.

"Other people tried to stop him but the situation unfolded too quickly. The ambassador was injured on the face and sent to hospital," he added.

According to reports, the assailant, who was wearing traditional Korean clothes, was tackled by police and security forces.

The attacker has been identified by police as Kim Ki-jong who has been reported to have a previous conviction for throwing a rock at Japan’s ambassador to Seoul in 2010.

"We have detained him and are investigating the cause of the attack and other circumstances," said district police chief Yoon Myung-soon.

Yoon added that the attack was carried out with a 25-centimeter (10-inch) paring knife.

“Act of violence" 

"We can confirm that (Lippert) was assaulted Thursday morning in Seoul while giving a speech. We strongly condemn this act of violence," said Marie Harf, the US State Department deputy spokeswoman.

US President Barak Obama “called (Lippert) to tell him that he and his wife Robyn are in his thoughts and prayers, and to wish him the very best for a speedy recovery," US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan stated.

The US State Department also confirmed that the ambassador’s injuries were not life threatening.

The assailant had reportedly attacked Japan’s ambassador to Seoul in 2010.

The Associated Press quoted the YTN as reporting that during the attack, the 55-year-old assailant shouted “South and North Korea should be reunified.” 

According to the state-run BBC, the attacker also voiced his opposition against the US and South Korea’s annual joint military exercises, which started this week.

Nearly 30,000 US troops are permanently stationed in South Korea and the US would assume operational command in the event of an armed conflict with the North.


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