South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung stabbed by autograph-seeker

Assailant subdued by men refused to answer police questions about motives, according to Busan media

South Korea’s opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung speaks during his visit to Busan, South Korea, January 2, 2024. — Reuters via Yonhap
  • Lee’s injuries not life-threatening, hospital officials say.
  • Assailant appeared to be in his 50s or 60s, posing as supporter.
  • South Korean President condemns attack on Lee.

South Korea’s opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck Tuesday during a visit to the southern city of Busan to tour the site of a proposed airport, according to party and fire officials.

After receiving emergency treatment and CT scans, Lee was airlifted to the Pusan National University Hospital in Seoul, where officials revealed that the injury was not life-threatening.

According to YTN television, the attack left him with a gash of about 1 cm on his neck.

Lee, who narrowly lost the 2022 presidential election, was attacked by an unidentified man who appeared to be in his 50s or 60s, wearing a paper crown with Lee’s name on it, news photographs showed.

According to video footage, the man approached and asked for an autograph as Lee spoke among a throng of supporters and reporters, then lunged forward and attacked him.

A Lee supporter, who was at the scene livestreaming the event, told Reuters there were two dozen police officers present.

The assailant was quickly subdued by men including police officers, the footage showed. He was refusing to answer police questions about his motives, daily Busan Ilbo reported.

Meanwhile, Yonhap news agency reported that South Korea’s police chief has said that a team will be created for a “swift, thorough investigation into the attack.”

President Yoon Suk Yeol condemned the attack and instructed the best care to be given, his office stated.

“This type of violence must never be tolerated under any circumstances,” his office quoted Yoon as saying.

Lee is currently on trial for alleged bribery stemming from a development project when he was mayor of Seongnam near Seoul. He has denied any wrongdoing.

South Korea has a history of political violence although it has strict restrictions on gun possession. There is police presence at major events but political leaders are not normally under close security protection.

Lee’s predecessor, Song Young-gil, was attacked in 2022 at a public event by an assailant who swung a blunt object against his head, causing a laceration.

Then conservative opposition party leader Park Geun-hye, who later served as president, was stabbed at an event in 2006 and suffered a gash on her face that required surgery.


— Additional input from Reuters

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1: https://www.geo.tv/latest/525408-south-korean-opposition-leader-lee-jae-myung-stabbed-by-autograph-seeker

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