April 1, 2015 / 8:09 AM / 3 years ago

South Korea charges attacker of U.S. envoy with attempted murder

SEOUL (Reuters) - Prosecutors have formally charged a South Korean man with attempted murder after the U.S. ambassador in Seoul was slashed in the face in a knife attack last month, leaving him with wounds needing 80 stitches, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Kim Ki-jong, a member of a pro-Korean unification group who attacked the U.S. ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert at a public forum, is carried on a stretcher off an ambulance as he arrives at a hospital in Seoul March 5, 2015. REUTERS/Han Jong-chan/Yonhap

Kim Ki-jong, 55, attacked ambassador Mark Lippert with a fruit knife during a forum on Korean reunification in Seoul on March 5. Lippert, 42, suffered deep gashes to his face and wrist and was in hospital for five days.

Kim has been charged with attempted murder, the assault of a foreign envoy, and obstruction of duty, an official at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office told Reuters.

He could face life in prison or even the death penalty, which is rarely used in South Korea, if found guilty of attempted murder.

Prosecutors were still investigating whether Kim had infringed the National Security Act, a 67-year-old statute that prohibits support for North Korea. Critics have said the potential use of the act is an attempt to politicize the case.

The attack prompted a large outpouring of public support in South Korea. Lippert returned to work late last month, and responded to messages of support in a blog post on Wednesday.

“It has meant a great deal to me, Robyn, Sejun, and Grigsby to feel the warmth and caring from the community here in Korea,” Lippert said, referring to his wife, newborn baby and pet basset hound.

Reporting by Sohee Kim; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Paul Tait

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