An envoy attacked

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An envoy attacked

The video of U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert rushing out of a breakfast meeting Thursday in downtown Seoul with his face dripping blood is utterly shocking. The worst-ever attack on the emissary of Korea’s key ally since establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States 133 years ago makes Koreans feel deeply frustrated. We are also ashamed for not being able to prevent such a terrorist attack by a radical nationalist and of our security staff’s inept response to the emergency.

Lippert is known to be in stable condition after undergoing two operations to stich up deep and wide cuts to his face and wrist at a local hospital. He received as many as 80 stitches in his face after being attacked by Kim Ki-jong, a 55-year-old self-proclaimed activist for unification and protection of the Dokdo islets in the East Sea. Doctors said that if the injury had been slightly deeper, it could have endangered Lippert’s life.

As President Park Geun-hye stated on her trip to Middle East, the attack was against the Korea-U.S. alliance and an act benefiting our enemy North Korea. The government must get to the bottom of the attack, hold any security staff involved accountable, and come up with effective measures to counter such attacks down the road. That’s the only way to protect and further consolidate our bilateral ties.

But first, our police must take responsibility for their porous security, lax management of protesters and loose handling of offenders on the scene. The police precinct said they had deployed security guards and plain-clothes officers to the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts even though the U.S. Embassy didn’t ask for them. But we can hardly accept that as the end of the matter, as seen in the remarks by Saenuri Party lawmaker Chang Yoon-seok, who was sitting next to the ambassador: “The police didn’t react swiftly,” he said. “Two uniformed policemen came to the scene after other attendees subdued the terrorist.”

The assailant received a suspended sentence of two years in prison for throwing bricks at the Japanese Ambassador to Seoul in 2010. He also attempted a self-immolation in front of the Blue House and tried to sprinkle sand on Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. The police cannot be excused for letting him in the hall with a nearly 10-inch knife. The video footage of police officers sitting on their hands even when he spoke gibberish on a bench after his arrest embarrasses us.

Given the perpetrator’s record of visiting North Korea six times, the police must investigate pro-North factions’ potential involvement in the attack.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 6, Page 34

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