During a visit to Busan, South Korea’s opposition leader, Lee Jae-myung, faced a harrowing attack as he was stabbed in the neck.
The incident occurred while Mr. Lee, who narrowly missed winning the 2022 presidential election, addressed reporters at a port city construction site.
Reports indicated that he sustained a 1cm laceration on the left side of his neck and was swiftly airlifted to the hospital. Fortunately, doctors confirmed that the wound was not life-threatening.
The assailant, a 66-year-old man, explicitly expressed his intention to kill Mr. Lee. However, the motive behind the attack remains unclear.
The aggressor approached Lee under the guise of requesting an autograph before swiftly lunging at him with an 18cm knife purchased online.
The arrogance of the daytime assault sent shockwaves across the nation, drawing condemnation from various political figures, including current President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Videos circulating on social media captured the chaotic aftermath, with Lee collapsing amidst the crowd as individuals worked to subdue the attacker.
Law enforcement promptly arrested the assailant, who is now facing attempted murder charges. The stark images after the incident depicted Lee lying on the ground, his eyes closed, as bystanders applied pressure to his wounded neck with a handkerchief.
A spokesperson representing Mr. Lee’s party conveyed that medical professionals were concerned about a potential injury to his jugular vein, which necessitated immediate surgery to prevent further bleeding. Kwon Chil-seung, the spokesman, emphasized the urgency of the situation, citing the need for swift medical intervention.
The party spokesman labeled the attack as a direct assault on democracy, emphasizing its gravity. President Yoon’s office echoed similar sentiments, stating unequivocally that South Korea cannot condone such violent acts under any circumstance.
At 59, Lee holds a legislative seat in Incheon, South Korea. His narrow loss in the 2022 presidential elections, with a mere 0.73% difference in votes to President Yoon, marked a historic electoral contest in the country. Anticipation looms over his potential candidacy in the 2027 presidential race.
As a former civil rights attorney who endured poverty and childhood labor in factories, Lee’s upbringing fueled his commitment to combating societal inequalities. This contrasts sharply with the affluent status quo of most South Korean lawmakers, who reportedly boast an average net worth of 2.3 billion won.
Despite his aspirations and advocacy, Lee has faced legal challenges.
He’s been indicted on corruption and breach of trust charges, alleging his involvement in enabling unlawful profits for private developers during his tenure as mayor of Seongnam. He vehemently denies these allegations, dismissing them as politically motivated.
While a court rejected the prosecution’s request to detain him before trial in September, investigations into several other corruption-related cases from his time in office persist.
In a dramatic show of protest against President Yoon’s policies, Lee embarked on a 19-day hunger strike, drawing attention to his dissent. The strike culminated in Lee’s need for hospitalization, highlighting his opposition to the government’s action.
While South Korea generally maintains a low crime rate, the nation experienced a notable increase in mass stabbing incidents in the past year. Stringent laws govern the possession of firearms and other weaponry, resulting in limited security measures for most public figures.
Several instances have occurred where South Korean politicians faced physical assaults involving weapons. For example, in March 2022, Song Young-gil, Mr. Lee’s predecessor as the Democratic Party leader, encountered an attack with a blunt object while campaigning for Mr. Lee, resulting in a laceration.
In a separate incident in 2006, Park Geun-hye, the leader of the conservative party who later became the president, was assaulted with a knife, leaving a lasting scar on her face.
Going back to 1979, her father, Park Chung-hee, who served as the president for 16 years, was fatally shot by his spy chief during a private dinner.