The man who attacked U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert Thursday morning during a meeting in Seoul is an alleged left-leaning civic activist who attacked the Japanese ambassador to Seoul in 2010, police officials said.
The attacker, Kim Ki-jong, 55, is the head of Urimadang Dokdo Keepers, a left-wing civic group.
Kim later admitted that the purpose of his attack was to protest the ongoing South Korea-U.S. military drills that began earlier this week. He was arrested at the scene.
The activist had not been invited to the event, nor was he a member of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, the civic group that had invited Lippert to its morning conference, Saenuri Party Rep. Chang Yoon-seok said.
Chang was sitting next to the ambassador when the assault took place.
“The event was open to the public. I think that’s why he was allowed into the conference room without much fuss,” the lawmaker said.
According to Chang, Kim had been sitting a few feet away from the head table, where he was seated with Lippert.
“It happened in a mere few seconds,” he said.
Chang and a few others at the scene wrestled Kim down. Police arrived a few minutes later and carried him away.
Kim suffered a broken ankle during the tussle, police said.
He later confessed he had prepared his attack for 10 days, after finding out about the event.
In 2010, the activist was reportedly arrested on charges of throwing blocks of concrete toward then-Japanese Ambassador Toshinori Shigeie during his lecture in Seoul. He was given a two-year jail term suspended for three years.
Kim has been engaged in a series of campaigns, including one to safeguard Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo. In 2006 after Japan’s Shimane prefecture declared its Takeshima Day, after the Japanese name for Dokdo, Kim, along with other activists, changed their home addresses to one located on the islets.
In 2007, he set himself on fire during a one-man protest in front of Cheong Wa Dae, calling on the government to thoroughly probe a case in which a member of his civic group was attacked by unidentified men at the group’s office in Seoul.
By Song Sang-ho and Jeong Hunny