Thursday morning was pretty unpleasant for Mark W. Lippert, the US envoy to South Korea. The ambassador was at a breakfast meeting in Seoul when a man, Kim Ki-jong, rushed forward and slashed his face open with a 10-inch knife. While the wound required 80 stitches, Lippert was relatively unharmed and the Kim was arrested before he could cause anymore damage. And why did Kim launch this attack the seemingly came from nowhere? He claims he was protesting the continuation of US-South Korean war drills that were taking place off the coast of the Korean peninsula due to the fact that they were damaging South Korean-North Korean relations.
This isn’t Kim’s first protest at the state of politics and foreign affairs in South Korea. Kim had been having run-ins with the police for years, all for staging similarly aggressive demonstrations. In 2010 he flung a brick at the Japanese ambassador and was arrested. He received a two-year suspended sentence and seemed to have been laying low up until this latest outburst of violence. While his actions may have been rash, Kim isn’t the only one that believes that the ongoing US-South Korean war drills are affecting any chance of reconciliation between the north and the south. While anti-American sentiment is low in South Korea (something officials continue to stress), it’s there on the fringes. That being said, this sort of sentiment has been decreasing as North Korea and Kim Jong-un continue to become more and more belligerent while China is simultaneously increasing its influence in the area by both economic and military means.
While Lippert is surely shaken by the attack, he seems to be in good spirits and is recovering well. He has plans to continue strengthening the bonds between the United States and South Korea and has already received a personal call from the South Korean President wishing him a speedy recovery. The South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, was also the victim of a similar attack when a man slashed her face with a box cutter in 2006. The South Korean government is already planning on revamping security efforts around the country and even though Kim Ki-jong was acting alone, the entire country is going to be far more vigilant for threats for the next few weeks.
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