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S. Korean President Visits Hospitalized US Ambassador

In this photo released by the South Korean presidential house, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, talks with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert at Severance Hospital where he is hospitalized, in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 9, 2015.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday visited hospitalized U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert, who was slashed in a knife attack last week.

An activist and North Korean sympathizer slashed Lippert on the face and wrist Thursday as he prepared to give a speech at a lecture hall in Seoul.

Park - shortly after returning home from a Middle East tour - told Lippert on Friday that her heart ached because he had suffered the same type of attack that she once had. Park was slashed in the face during an election campaign in Seoul in 2006. She was cared for at the same hospital where Lippert is being treated.

Authorities said Sunday that the suspect, 55-year-old Kim Ki-jong, faces possible attempted murder charges.

Speaking from his wheelchair Friday, the suspect told reporters in Seoul he "did not receive any direction" from North Korea.

Yoon Myeong-seong, chief of police of central Seoul, said the suspect had visited North Korea around seven times between 1999 and 2007.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency responded to the attack by calling it "just punishment" and a valid "expression of resistance" to ongoing U.S.-South Korea military exercises.

South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said Friday: "This incident was a harmful act against a diplomatic envoy which cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. We strongly denounce North Korea for distorting and fabricating the nature of the incident and furthermore, supporting such acts."

Ambassador Lippert has said he is "doing well and in great spirits," and wrote on Twitter that he and his family were deeply moved by an outpouring of support and that he would soon return to advance U.S.-South Korean relations.

A hospital official said March 9 that Lippert, who needed 80 stitches after his face was slashed during a forum last week, could leave the hospital by March 10.

Lippert underwent surgery March 5 for an 11-cm (4 inches) gash on the right side of his face and a puncture wound on his left wrist that caused nerve damage, which was repaired.

“We are planning to take out half of the stitches this morning and the other half tomorrow morning. If there's no problem after checking his condition, we'll let him leave the hospital tomorrow afternoon,” he said.

Lippert has received some visitors besides Park while he has been recovering in hospital.

On March 8, still photographs provided by Severance Hospital showed various meetings between Lippert and Vice Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff James A. Winnefeld, South Korean leaders of rival parties including chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, Kim Moo-sung, and the Head of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) Moon Jae-in.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.