Korean President visits US envoy

Korean President visits US envoy

President Park Geun-hye on Monday visited U.S Ambassador Mark Lippert, who was attacked by a radical activist last week, immediately upon her return from the Middle East tour and wished him a swift recovery while pledging a more robust alliance.

Park's visit topped throngs of calls made by Seoul's high-level officials and politicians, as various religious and civic groups continued to hold rallies and events to send well-wishes to the ambassador who suffered deep cuts to his face and left hand.

During the 10-minute meeting, Park gave words of consolation to Lippert, comparing the incident with her own in 2006, when she received a slash on the right side of her face from an assailant while taking part in a rally in Seoul as chair of the then-Grand National Party.

"I myself suffered from a similar incident and came through a two-and-a-half-hour operation at this very hospital. It was heartbreaking to see that the same thing happened to you," she said.

Shortly after the attack, the president also phoned him from Abu Dhabi and conveyed similar messages.

Hailing his "resolute, bold" response, she said the latest event may provide a chance for the two countries to be even closer.

"I hope you will get well soon and go together forever with us for the South Korea-US relationship and greater development of both countries," Park said, referring to Lippert's Twitter message last Thursday in which he promised to be back shortly to advance the alliance, chanting "Let's go together!"

Lippert, in response, said he was "deeply moved" by the interests and condolences from the government and people here, expressing his gratitude and vowing "utmost efforts" to spend his time for his family and a greater alliance.

Severance Hospital's medical team said Lippert was recovering well and would be discharged Tuesday.

Lippert received cuts to his face and wrist at a seminar in Seoul on Thursday by an ultraleft activist wielding a 25-centimeter knife. He underwent surgery for more than two hours at the clinic.

The investigation continues on Kim Ki-jong, who faces charges of attempted murder, assault on a foreign diplomat and obstruction of work, to possibly charge him with a violation of the National Security Law as well. Kim had claimed he planned the attack to call for a stop to South Korea-US military drills and reunification with North Korea.

Lippert's ward has since been crammed with an influx of high-flying guests such as Choi Kyung-hwan, the deputy prime minister and finance minister; Rep. Kim Moo-sung, chair of the ruling Saenuri Party; and Rep. Moon Jae-in, leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

Visiting Washington officials also stopped by, including Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Wendy Cutler, the acting US deputy trade representative.

Twitter and other social networks are also brimming with cheers and praises, while a slew of Christian, conservative and other interest groups held rallies and cultural events dedicated to Lippert.

During his visit to the hospital, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Lippert would be able to leave soon "in a very good condition."

"I said we should work together again to build an alliance that never bends to any threat going forward, and that can overcome any crisis and challenge," he told reporters after the visit.

Medical officials said that of the 80 stitches to the envoy's face, around half of them were removed early Monday and the remainder to be before he leaves the hospital.

As part of follow-up treatment, medical staff plan to visit his residence on Saturday, with the cast on his wrist to be completely taken off in three to four weeks, they said.

"He will likely be released tomorrow afternoon. … The ambassador has been expressing his willingness to get back to work as soon as possible," said Yoon Do-heum, general-director of the hospital.

Lippert is recovering smoothly, though he appeared slightly tired after receiving guests and took some painkillers late Sunday due to minor pain in the wrist and a headache, according to Chung Nam-sik, president and chief executive of the Yonsei University Health System.

"The ambassador is being well taken care of and recovering quicker than we thought, which I think is because he had normally been in good health," he said at a media briefing.

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