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(3rd LD) Chiefs of rival parties visit attacked U.S. envoy

2015/03/08 16:10

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- The leaders of rival parties on Sunday emphasized a sustained Seoul-Washington alliance as they visited the hospitalized U.S. envoy who is recovering from wounds he suffered last week from a knife attack.

Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, and Moon Jae-in, head of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), made separate visits to U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert, who suffered injuries to his face and left arm on Thursday from the attack by a 55-year-old man.

Lippert was quoted as saying that the incident was an attack on the U.S.

The head of the ruling party said the attack should not get in the way of the Korea-U.S. alliance, adding that his party will do its best to help South Korea upkeep the alliance.

"I think that the attack was made in an attempt by pro-North Korean forces to break the Seoul-Washington alliance, but the incident has rather become an occasion to solidify the strength of the relationship," Kim told reporters after meeting with Lippert.

The ambassador said the incident was an attack against him as well as on the U.S., but he hoped the alliance would become stronger, according to Park Dae-chul, spokesman of the Saenuri Party.

Attacker Kim Ki-jong claimed that he wanted Seoul and Washington to stop their military drills that he said were preventing national reunification. Kim was detained on Friday on charges of attempted murder.

Lippert received 80 stitches but the envoy has shown resilience and calmness, saying on his Twitter account that he is "in good spirits" and hopes to come back as soon as possible to advance the Seoul-Washington alliance.

Kim Moo-sung (C), chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, visits U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert at Severance Hospital on March 8, 2015. Lippert is recovering from wounds he sustained last week during a knife attack. (Yonhap) Kim Moo-sung (C), chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, visits U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert at Severance Hospital on March 8, 2015. Lippert is recovering from wounds he sustained last week during a knife attack. (Yonhap)

Opposition leader Moon said that he expressed his appreciation to Lippert as his calmness and online messages helped the alliance remain on a firm footing.

"I believe Lippert's attitude helps enhance the alliance, but if this incident is politically used (by the ruling party), which claims pro-North Korean followers are behind it, such a move will rather hurt the Seoul-Washington ties," Moon said.

The conservative Saenuri Party has raised suspicions that the suspect might be a North Korean sympathizer, arguing that confiscated items from his home suggest possible ties with the North. Kim has so far denied any links with Pyongyang.

The liberal NPAD says the attack was an "isolated incident" committed by an extremist nationalist, urging the Saenuri Party not to use the case politically.

Moon Jae-in (C), head of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), visits hospitalized U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert on March 8, 2015. (Yonhap) Moon Jae-in (C), head of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), visits hospitalized U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert on March 8, 2015. (Yonhap)

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo sent a letter to his U.S. counterpart, Ashton Carter, on Friday to express regret over the bloody attack, his ministry said.

"Han said that he believes the Seoul-Washington alliance will develop into a comprehensive strategic alliance as the ties have evolved so far in spite of many challenges," the ministry added.

Doctors said Lipper may be discharged from the hospital as early as Tuesday as he is showing a fast recovery.

"The stitches will be removed Monday, and we expect that the ambassador will be able to leave the hospital as early as Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning at the latest," Yoo Dae-hyun, the doctor who performed surgery on Lippert, told reporters Sunday.

Yoon Do-heum, head of Severance Hospital where Lippert is being treated, said the envoy experienced some pain from the wounds early Sunday morning but managed to sleep well overnight.

"The ambassador said he felt pain in his wrist at around 3:10 a.m., but after being administered with a painkiller, he had quite a good sleep," Yoon said. "His blood pressure and pulse are normal, and there are no concerns about inflammation," he said.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul told reporters that Lippert was reading "The Two Koreas," a book by Don Oberdorfer, former Washington Post correspondent for Northeast Asia. The book chronicles Korea's contemporary history following its 1945 liberation from Japan's colonial rule.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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