Fierce anti-Americanism fueled the frenzied knife attack on Ambassador Mark Lippert, a South Korean official said Friday.
"The suspect testified that he has had anti-U.S. sentiments and targeted the ambassador because he was the symbolic person representing the United States," senior Seoul police officer Kim Chul-jun said.
"Especially, we think, the suspect committed the detailed crime out of rage as the military drills kicked off on March 2 as planned, even after [suspect Kim Ki-jong] held news conferences and street campaigns to stop the military drills."
The March 5 attack by nationalist and anti-U.S. activist Kim Ki-jong left Lippert with nerve damage to his left hand and a 4-inch cut on his cheek that required 80 stitches. Lippert, who was allegedly targeted from behind and slashed before being tackled by others, underwent a successful three-hour surgery.
Kim, who was once given a suspended sentence a piece of concrete at the Japanese ambassador, could face charges of attempted murder for the attack.
The United States is South Korea's closest ally and maintains a military presence of 28,500 personnel. While that has drawn protest from some South Koreans in the past, opposition has eased in recent years.