Civic and political protest is something of a national past-time in South Korea, but while demonstrations can be loud, passionate and physical, acts of extreme violence or civil unrest are rare.
And, putting the threat posed by North Korea to one side, the country has largely been untouched by the spectre of terrorism, domestic or external.
So the very public assault on the envoy of the country’s most important military and diplomatic ally at a breakfast function in central Seoul, has led some to question whether South Korea has become complacent in what can seem like an increasingly hostile world.
In the case of Thursday’s attack, there was particular disquiet that a known political activist with a record of violence against foreign envoys was able to get so close to his target.
Kim Ki-Jong, whose assault saw Ambassador Mark Lippert hospitalised with a deep gash on his face that required 80 stitches, had received a suspended jail sentence in 2010 for hurling a rock at the Japanese ambassador.