A version of this post originally appeared on CNN and can be found here.
The attack on Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, allegedly by a knife-wielding Korean progressive activist at a breakfast meeting in Seoul, was a rare and shocking reminder of the ongoing conflict that continues to divide the Korean Peninsula.
Despite the ever-present backdrop of inter-Korean tensions, security in downtown Seoul is typically quite relaxed. But on Thursday morning local time, the alleged assailant, who has been tied to Korean nationalist and anti-U.S. protests, reportedly shouted his opposition to annual U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises and called for Korean reunification as he cut the ambassador on the face and hand with a 10-inch knife.
This breakfast meeting with Lippert was taking place at a building directly across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. And the scene was probably not too different from a similar breakfast meeting I attended with the ambassador at a downtown hotel only a week before the attack. Lippert moved freely without a security detail or security screenings at the entrance to the venue, and was accompanied by only one or two embassy staff. Indeed, even since 9/11, it is relatively easy to enter most large buildings in downtown Seoul, and security procedures have been generally perfunctory.