Ambassador’s Korean Slasher Has A History Of Crazy Anti-Americanism
The man who slashed the face and arm of the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea with a 10-inch knife on Thursday, 55-year-old Kim Ki-jong, has a history of opposing America’s military presence in South Korea and backing reunion with North Korea.
Kim attacked Ambassador Mark Lippert Thursday morning as Lippert was preparing to give a breakfast lecture on U.S.-Korea relations and the prospect of unity between the North and South. According to the English edition of Seoul newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, Lippert “was starting to eat the first course of his breakfast” when Kim, who was seated at another table, approached him and began to slash him with his knife.
Thursday’s breakfast event was hosted by the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, which studies relations between North and South Korea and hosts the American ambassador for an annual address. Kim is a member of the group, according to Reuters. But he also has a long history of violent aggression: the JoongAng Ilbo reports that he threw concrete blocks at Japan’s ambassador in 2010, injuring an interpreter in the process. In 2007, he staged a one-man protest outside the Blue House, the South Korean president’s official residence, where he set himself on fire.
And in 2006 and 2007, when North-South relations were briefly warming under a South Korean “Sunshine Policy,” he made eight visits to the Northern border city of Kaesong for a tree-planting campaign.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s attack, Kim expressed surprising frankness to reporters, saying that he “carried out an act of terror” and is “not ashamed.” In fact, he admitted, “I used this knife to peel a fruit yesterday.” Nevertheless, he violently resisted arrest. He was reportedly wearing traditional Korean robes, called hanbok, when he made the attack.
The attack was apparently timed to coincide with the annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises known as Exercise Key Resolve. Every year, North Korea rails loudly against the exercise, interpreting it as an act of American aggression. On Monday, the totalitarian country fired two missiles into the ocean in protest.
Following Thursday’s slashing, North Korea’s official news agency praised the attack as “just punishment” for American imperialism, referring to the weapon as a “knife of justice.”
Both North and South Korea recognize reunification of the two countries, separate since 1948, as official policy goals. To that end, they have encouraged groups like the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation to organized informal exchanges and “promote mutual understanding.” Some advocates of reunification have criticized America’s continued defensive stance in South Korea as an obstacle to reunion.
Mark Lippert, the U.S. Ambassador, was visibly bleeding as he exited the lecture hall and rushed to the hospital, where he received 80 stitches. His injuries included an inch-deep, 4-inch-long gash on his face and severed tendons in his left arm.
He has been ambassador to Seoul since November, during which time he has built a popular online following among South Koreans — including a separate Twitter account for his basset hound Grigsby. The ambassador tweeted shortly after surgery that he was “Doing well&in great spirits.”
Lippert is a Navy veteran and a former Senate aide to President Barack Obama. He was chief of staff to retired Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel before assuming his post to Seoul.
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