Lee Jae-myung: South Korea opposition leader stabbed in neck on visit to Busan 2024

Lee Jae-myung

South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was attacked and stabbed in the neck during a visit to the city of Busan.

The incident occurred on Tuesday morning as Mr. Lee Jae-myung, who narrowly lost the 2022 presidential election, was addressing reporters at a construction site in the port city.

Reports indicate that Mr. Lee sustained a 1cm laceration on the left side of his neck. He was quickly airlifted to the hospital, where doctors confirmed that the wound is not life-threatening.

The assailant, a 66-year-old man, expressed his intention to kill Mr. Lee, according to the Yonhap news agency. The motive behind the attack remains unclear, causing shock and condemnation from various political parties and politicians, including current President Yoon Suk Yeol.

During the news conference, the attacker approached Mr. Lee Jae-myungunder the pretense of requesting an autograph and then lunged forward with an 18cm (7in) knife purchased online. Swift action from onlookers resulted in the immediate arrest of the attacker.

Prosecutors are preparing to bring attempted murder charges against the assailant, as reported by Yonhap. Videos circulated on social media depict the chaotic scene, with Mr. Lee Jae-myungcollapsing into the crowd and subsequently onto the ground, while bystanders attempt to restrain the attacker.

Medical staff suspect damage to Mr. Lee’s jugular vein, requiring prompt surgery to address concerns about further bleeding. A spokesman for Mr. Lee Jae-myungparty characterized the attack as « a clear act of democracy destruction, » while President Yoon emphasized that such acts of violence should not be tolerated.

Lee Jae-myung, 59, currently holds a seat in South Korea‘s legislature, representing Incheon. Despite losing the 2022 presidential election by a narrow margin, he remains a prominent figure and is expected to participate in the 2027 presidential elections.

Lee Jae-myung, a former civil rights attorney with a working-class background, has been indicted on corruption and breach of trust charges since losing the 2022 election. He denies these charges, deeming them politically motivated. Despite legal challenges, Lee’s impoverished upbringing distinguishes him from many of his parliamentary peers, who reportedly have an average net worth of 2.3 billion won ($1.8 million).

South Korea, known for its low crime rate, witnessed a surge in mass stabbing attacks last year. Stringent regulations govern the possession of guns and other weapons, and public figures typically do not receive high-security protection.

This incident is not the first involving attacks on South Korean politicians. In March 2022, Mr. Lee Jae-myung predecessor, Song Young-gil, was attacked while campaigning. Additionally, in 2006, conservative party leader Park Geun-hye, who later became president, was attacked with a knife, leaving a scar on her face. Tragically, in 1979, her father, President Park Chung-hee, was shot and killed during a private dinner by his spy chief.

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