Police: Attacker intended to murder US ambassador in South Korea to protest military drills

An anti-U.S. activist arrested last week for allegedly stabbing U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert had intended to kill the envoy to highlight his protest against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills, police said Friday.

The suspect, Kim Ki-jong, could face charges of attempted murder after his case is sent to prosecutors for possible indictment, senior Seoul police officer Kim Choul-joon said in a televised briefing.

Police say Kim Ki-jong attacked Lippert with a knife during a breakfast forum last Thursday that left deep gashes on the envoy's face and arm. Lippert left a South Korean hospital Tuesday where doctors closed an 11-centimeter (4-inch) wound on his face and operated on his left arm to repair damaged tendons and nerves.

Kim Ki-jong has told investigators he had no intention of killing Lippert and only tried to hurt him, according to police. But police believe he attempted to kill the ambassador because he knifed Lippert multiple times with a force that was enough to penetrate his arm, police officer Kim Choul-joon said.

Police believe Kim's anti-U.S., pro-North Korea views are believed to have led him to taken an "extreme action" on the U.S. ambassador, police officer Kim Choul-joon said.

During questioning, Kim Ki-jong said South Korea is a virtual U.S. colony and North Korea has an independent, self-reliant government, Kim Choul-joon said. Shortly after his arrest, Kim Ki-jong shouted that the U.S.-South Korea war games are an obstacle against a Korean unification, he said.

The alleged attacker, who participated in rallies criticizing the U.S.-South Korea military training before the attack, chose Lippert as a target because he considered him a symbolic American figure, according to police.

Police said Kim's confiscated computer records show that he searched Lippert's blog, articles on the military drills and the South Korean criminal law as he prepared the attack.

The North describes the South Korean-U.S. springtime drills as a rehearsal for a northward invasion, though the allies say the exercises are defensive in nature. The U.S., which fought alongside with South Korea, during the 1950-53 Korean War, stations about 28,500 troops as deterrence against potential aggression from North Korea.