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 / Updated  / Source: NBC News

SEOUL — Prosecutors have charged a South Korean man with attempted murder after the U.S. ambassador was slashed in the face last month, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Kim Ki-jong, 55, allegedly attacked Ambassador Mark Lippert with a fruit knife in Seoul on March 5. Lippert, 42, suffered deep gashes to his face and wrist that required 80 stitches. He was in hospital for five days.

Kim has been charged with attempted murder, assault of a foreign envoy, and obstruction of duty, an official at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said.

He could face life in prison or even the death penalty, which is rarely used in South Korea, if found guilty of attempted murder.

Prosecutors were still investigating whether Kim had infringed the National Security Act, a 67-year-old statute prohibiting support for North Korea. Critics say the potential use of the act is an attempt to politicize the case.

The attack prompted an outpouring of public support in South Korea. Lippert returned to work last month and responded to messages of support in a blog post Wednesday.

"It has meant a great deal to me, Robyn, Sejun, and Grigsby to feel the warmth and caring from the community here in Korea," Lippert said, referring to his wife, newborn baby and pet basset hound.


- Reuters