No security repercussions
After U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant during a public forum, the news instantly made worldwide headlines. Photographs of one of the world’s most high-profile envoys bleeding as he made his way to the hospital shocked the international public as well as those in Korea, one of the closest allies to the United States.
A diplomatic envoy represents the nation. Lippert, who was assigned to Seoul in October, is one of closest confidantes to President Barack Obama and has been openly friendly to the Korean people and Korean affairs. The assailant, who slashed the ambassador across the face with a knife before Lippert could give a speech at a breakfast forum in central Seoul, was reportedly was protesting joint military exercises between Korea and the United States that kicked off earlier this month. Unfortunately, this incident has the potential to breed negative global sentiment toward Korea and impact pro-Seoul policies, including military posture.
Seoul and Washington acted quickly to respond to the incident and do damage control. President Park Geun-hye reacted immediately and ordered a thorough investigation and reinforced security for foreign envoys. She also made sure to send her well-wishes. The prime minister, meanwhile, held a vice-ministerial meeting and a National Security Council meeting.
The government should do all it can so this isolated incident does not hurt our traditional alliance. The attack should be thoroughly investigated and explained. Security and protection for other diplomatic envoys must be strengthened so that diplomatic activities are not impaired by it. It is the host country’s duty to ensure the safety of its diplomatic officials, and the public role to protect Americans has increased amid a rise in terrorism threats against U.S. citizens.
An alliance is based on mutual trust. If animosities build up, its foundation can quickly lose ground. Americans must not be led to misunderstand Korea. Lippert who underwent two surgeries, including 80 stitches on his face, was admirably a good sport. While recuperating, he tweeted “Doing well&in great spirits … deeply moved by the support!” This incident should not damage us, but instead bring us closer. We wish the ambassador a swift and speedy recovery.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 6, Page 34