US envoy Mark Lippert thanked Koreans for support and pledged a stronger alliance between the two countries, as he left the hospital on Tuesday, five days after he was attacked by a knife-wielding leftist activist.
"It has been incredibly gratifying for me and my family to see such a beautiful expression of empathy and generosity from the Korean People. The signs, offers of food, flowers, cards and well-wishes on Twitter, Facebook and our blogs, these and other acts of kindness have touched us deeply," Lippert said in a news conference at Yonsei Severance Hospital in Seoul.
"I am eager to get back to working on this strong and dynamic relationship. We will continue our work to grow this relationship not only in terms of our critical military alliance but also in our vibrant economic ties and important diplomatic partnership and deep friendship between the Korean and American people."
The remaining stitches on Lippert's right chin were removed earlier in the day as he has shown a speedy recovery, the medical staff said. The stitches on his wrist have not been taken out yet but an orthopedist will visit the envoy every day for a checkup, they added.
During his stay, Lippert was visited by high-profile well-wishers, including President Park Geun-hye, who met him immediately upon her return from a Middle East tour.
Meanwhile, controversy escalated over the manner in which the police are conducting the probe into the allegations of the attacker Kim Ki-jong's pro-North Korean links.
Kim was arrested last week on charges of attempted murder, assault on a foreign diplomat and obstruction of official duties after attacking the top US envoy. Along with those allegations, the authorities have been separately looking into whether the suspect also violated the National Security Law.
During the raid at Kim's house and office on Friday, investigators found dozens of suspicious books and periodicals that may indicate that he has pro-North Korean views.
An examination is underway to detect if there are any "enemy benefiting" contents in the materials, the police said. Of these, 10 books were already confirmed to have contained law-violating contents, they added.
While the police legally searched his house and office with a search warrant issued by the court, some law experts claimed that the search and seizure at his places violated the principle of warrant.
Under Korean law, investigators are only allowed to seize items that are related to the allegations written on the warrant.
"If attempted murder charges are written on Kim's warrant, the police are only supposed to search things that are related to the knife, such as where the suspect bought the knife. Unrelated search and seizure is unlawful," said lawyer Seol Chang-il, a member of Minbyun ― Lawyers for a Democratic Society.
"If investigators sought a 'comprehensive warrant' for 'determining the crime motive,' (seizing the North Korea-related materials) may not be a problem. But it is highly unusal for such comprehensive warrant to be issued," he added.
Accompanying antisecurity investigators during the raid also fueled doubts that the authorities went with the intent to seek evidence of National Security Law violations by the suspect.
The police, however, claimed that the seizure process was legal as it was part of the probe to reveal the suspect's planning and motive for the crime.