SEOUL, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The South Korean assailant accused of stabbing the U.S. ambassador to Seoul in the face and arms has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Kim Ki-jong, the 55-year-old attacker who slashed Ambassador Mark Lippert multiple times on March 5, was convicted on Friday of attempted murder, assaulting a diplomat and business obstruction, CNN reported.
Kim was not found guilty of violating South Korea's anti-communist National Security Law, for which prosecutors had sought a 15-year prison term for the defendant, the BBC reported.
The Seoul Central District Court said Kim has the option to appeal the conviction.
The U.S. Embassy in Seoul thanked South Korean investigators and South Koreans for their support.
"We continue to appreciate the strong support of the Korean people and the Korean government following the attack on Ambassador Lippert in March," said Daniel Turnbull, a U.S. spokesman. "This support demonstrates the deep friendship between our peoples."
Lippert sustained serious injuries after the attack that required 80 stitches to his lower jaw, but he suffered no serous facial nerve damage from a blade that went in an inch deep into his face. The ambassador also was cut five times on his left arm and hand.
South Korean prosecutors have said Kim was spurred into action after North Korea demanded an end to U.S.-South Korea military exercises but the judge did not agree Kim's protest of the drills amounted to a violation of the National Security Law.
North Korea has hailed the assailant as a patriotic hero, but also has denied any involvement in the attack.
During investigations into the case, police uncovered several documents of North Korean origin in Kim's possession, including a volume on North Korean cinema by former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and at least five other books published in North Korea. Kim most likely acquired the books when he traveled to North Korea between 1999 and 2007.