TOKYO — The U.S. ambassador to South Korea was slashed in the face early Thursday while speaking at a breakfast forum in Seoul, but his injuries were not considered life-threatening, U.S. and Korean officials said.
Ambassador Mark Lippert, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, was cut on the right cheek by a man wielding a blade, according to witnesses. He was in stable condition after surgery at a hospital in Seoul.
YTN TV reported that the assailant, identified by police as Kim Ki-jong, 55, screamed, “South and North Korea should be reunified” as he launched the attack. The two Koreas have been divided for decades along the world’s most heavily armed border.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Lippert was taken to a hospital for treatment. She said he also suffered a cut to the wrist in addition to his cheek.
“We strongly condemn this act of violence,” Harf said.
In a televised briefing, Chung Nam-sik of the Severance Hospital said 80 stitches were needed to close the facial wound, which was just over 4 inches long and just more than 1 inch deep, the Associated Press reported. He said the cut did not affect Lippert’s nerves or salivary gland.
Chung said the knife penetrated Lippert’s left arm and damaged the nerves connected to his pinkie and tendons connected to his thumb, the AP said. Chung said the ambassador will need treatment at the hospital for the next three or four days, and may experience sensory problems in his left hand for several months.