(AA) – U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert had a surprise visitor just a day ahead of his expected Tuesday release from Seoul’s Severance Hospital — in the form of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Lippert needed more than 80 stitches after suffering knife wounds to his face and arm last Thursday — police are investigating whether his assailant, arrested on multiple charges including attempted murder, was motivated by a connection to North Korea.
Park, herself the victim of a knife attack back in 2006 during an election campaign, told Lippert during her visit that her “heart ached” to think that he had gone through the same thing, according to local news agency Yonhap.
The president had already spoken to the recovering envoy on the phone while on a trip to the Middle East last week, and her meeting with Lippert followed similar demonstrations of support over the weekend by the leaders of South Korea’s main political parties.
Meanwhile, local authorities said that they are examining any links between Lippert’s assailant — 55-year-old Kim Ki-jong — and Pyongyang, and in turn a possible breach of the South’s strict National Security Law. The two Koreas are still technically at war as they never signed a peace treaty after their 1950-53 conflict.
Aside from Kim’s known history of visiting North Korea and the discovery of a collection of pro-Pyongyang books during a search of his home and office, police revealed to reporters that he had openly praised the North under questioning.
On the day of his attack on the U.S. ambassador, Kim had made clear his opposition to ongoing joint military drills involving South Korean and American troops — a grievance shared with Pyongyang.
While Park is optimistic about Lippert’s role in the future, the head of Severance Hospital told a media briefing that doctors plan to visit the envoy’s home for a check-up this weekend after his expected release Tuesday afternoon.
“He’s trying his best to get back to work as soon as possible,” said Yoon Do-heum.
Despite his relatively young age of 42, Lippert took up his current role last year, having previously worked closely with U.S. President Barack Obama.