12 years jail for US envoy attacker

  • 11/09/2015
Kim Ki-Jong (AAP)
Kim Ki-Jong (AAP)

The South Korean man behind a shocking knife attack that left the US ambassador in Seoul needing 80 stitches to a deep gash on his face, has been convicted of attempted murder and jailed for 12 years.

Prosecutors had sought a 15-year sentence for Kim Ki-Jong, 56, who lunged at Mark Lippert with a paring knife during a breakfast function in Seoul last March.

In accepting the attempted murder charge, the Seoul Central District Court cited medical reports showing Kim had come close to severing the carotid artery in Lippert's neck.

It also noted that the defendant had "shown no repentance, attempting to justify his actions throughout the trial".

The public attack on the envoy of South Korea's most important military and diplomatic ally – and dramatic TV footage of Lippert being rushed to hospital clutching his bloodied face – was shocking for a country where passionate political protest is common but acts of such extreme violence rare.

There was also a degree of shame and disquiet that a man with a record of violence against foreign envoys had been able to carry out such an assault.

A maverick activist who was known to police, Kim had been handed a two-year suspended sentence in 2010 for hurling a rock at the then Japanese ambassador to Seoul.

The defendant, wearing a blue prison outfit, closed his eyes but showed little emotion as the court verdict was read out.

He was then taken from the court in a wheelchair he has been using as the result of a leg injury sustained while being tackled to the ground after the assault.

It was not immediately clear if his defence team would appeal the ruling.

Under police questioning, Kim said Lippert had been the "symbolic" target of his opposition to annual US-South Korea military exercises.