Mark Lippert, the United States' ambassador to South Korea, was slashed in the face with a 10-inch knife during a lecture in a public forum on Thursday morning in Seoul, the State Department announced.
Doctors at Yonsei University's Severance Hospital were forced to use 80 stitches to repair the 4-inch gash on the right side of Lippert's face, Reuters reported. They also worked to repair nerve damage within Lippert's left wrist during two-and-a-half hours of surgery.
Michael Lammbrau of the Arirang Institute think tank told Reuters that the attacker shouted about Korean independence while he was being restrained.
"It sounded like he was anti-American, anti-imperialist, that kind of stuff," Lammbrau said. "The ambassador fought him from his seat ... There was a trail of blood behind him."
The suspect -- identified as 55-year-old Kim Ki-jong -- was apprehended and taken into custody after the attack, The Associated Press reported. A police official also told AP that Kim, who was part of the part of the group that hosted Thursday's event, threw a piece of concrete at the Japanese ambassador to South Korea in 2010.
North Korea described the attack as a valid "expression of resistance" and blasted the U.S.'s decision to hold joint military exercises with South Korea, China News Asia reported.
"Just punishment for US warmongers," the official KCNA news agency said in the headline to a brief despatch.
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Twitter that his thoughts were with Lippert.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) March 5, 2015
Lippert, 42, was appointed ambassador last year after serving in several senior roles at the Defense Department, including chief of staff to former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Before serving at the Defense department, Lippert was a foreign policy adviser to Obama in the Senate before becoming Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff for the National Security Council in 2009. He also served two years in the U.S. Navy and was deployed to Afghanistan.
Lippert, who will remain in the hospital for three or four days, took to Twitter to issue an update on his condition:
Doing well&in great spirits! Robyn, Sejun, Grigsby & I - deeply moved by the support! Will be back ASAP to advance US-ROK alliance! 같이 갑시다!
— Mark Lippert (@mwlippert) March 5, 2015
Lippert's wife gave birth to a son in Korea in January, something that the ambassador also marked on his Twitter feed.
Welcome newest member of the Lippert family! Mom & son are great! Full name TBD post 사주 process; Korean middle name! pic.twitter.com/ExWA9Oz4Qo
— Mark Lippert (@mwlippert) January 20, 2015