On Thursday morning, Mark Lippert, the American ambassador to South Korea, was viciously attacked by a razor-wielding assailant moments before Lippert was set to speak at a meeting in Seoul. “South and North Korea should be reunified," the attacker yelled as he gashed Lippert's face and wrist, causing wounds that would ultimately require two-and-a-half hours of surgery and some 80 stitches.
Among the many strange things about the episode is how it was described in different corners. The U.S. State Department issued an initial statement in which it labeled the attack an "assault" and condemned it as an "act of violence." Meanwhile, North Korea praised the attack as a "knife shower of justice" and "just punishment" for military cooperation between the United States and South Korea. Absent from most international accounts was the word "terrorism," which is how several South Korean officials characterized it.
The BBC notes that the attacker, Kim Ki-jong, had participated in a number of provocative, and sometimes violent, political acts over the years, including the attempted construction of a public memorial to late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, a 2010 attack on a Japanese envoy, and the 1985 burning of an American flag at the American embassy in Seoul. In addition to calling for the reunification of Korea, Kim also denounced joint military drills between the United States and South Korea.