South Korea police push for attempted murder charge in US envoy attack

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean police handed their investigation into the knife attack on US ambassador Mark Lippert to prosecutors Friday, recommending a charge of attempted murder for the "pre-meditated assault".

Lippert, 42, suffered deep gashes to his cheek and hand when a knife-wielding nationalist, Kim Ki Jong, assaulted him at a breakfast function in central Seoul last week.

"We have come to the conclusion that the suspect intended to murder," Kim Choul Joon, a senior Seoul Police Agency officer, told a press briefing.

"This was a well prepared, pre-meditated crime," he said.

Kim Ki Jong, who has a previous conviction for hurling a rock at the then-Japanese ambassador in 2010, denies any intention to kill Lippert.

The envoy required 80 stitches to the wound on his face and two-and-a-half hours of surgery.

Kim, 55, told investigators the ambassador was the "symbolic" target of his opposition to annual US-South Korea joint military exercises, which he blames for blocking a dialogue with North Korea.

He insists that he acted alone and not on the orders of Pyongyang, but the police said they would continue to investigate the possibility of one or more accomplices.

North Korea has rejected accusations that it may have been behind the attack as a "vicious" smear campaign by Seoul.

The investigation has also looked into whether Kim may have violated the South's strict National Security Law which prohibits any act seen as aiding North Korea or promoting its ideology.

A number of books and other materials were seized in a search of Kim's house.

Kim had visited the North seven times and once tried to erect a memorial in Seoul to the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il after his death in 2011.

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