SEOUL, Mar. 11 (Korea Bizwire) — Police officers will be assigned to guard foreign envoys in South Korea even without their request if their safety appears to be at risk, the nation’s police chief said Wednesday.
The measure comes amid heightened concerns about the safety of foreign envoys here following last week’s knife attack on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert.
Lippert was about to deliver a speech during a breakfast function in downtown Seoul on Thursday when a South Korean activist attacked him and slashed his face and wrist. Lippert received 80 stitches to his face and was hospitalized for six days before being released Tuesday. Police said they had not been asked to guard the ambassador.
“We will expand our guard and security services from protecting the buildings of diplomatic missions to also protecting foreign envoys,” Kang Sin-myeong, the National Police Agency commissioner, said during a meeting between government and ruling Saenuri Party officials.
“We will actively deploy security forces not only at the request of diplomats but also without a request if there appears to be a safety risk.”
About eight countries have so far requested an escort for their ambassadors, Rep. Cho Won-jin of the ruling party told reporters after the meeting, quoting Kang.
Kang also vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into the assailant’s motives and whether he had an accomplice. The assailant, Kim Ki-jong, has been detained on charges of attempted murder, violence against a foreign envoy and obstruction of business.
Police have assigned a 24-hour security force to guard Lippert and his wife and also assigned guards to protect the Japanese ambassador to Seoul during public functions.
The security alert has been raised at 273 diplomatic mission facilities nationwide, while the number of facilities with a permanently stationed police force has been increased from 13 to 24, Kang said.