Opposition Leader Lee Jae-myung Stabbed in Neck During Busan Visit

In a startling turn of events, South Korea’s opposition leader, Lee Jae-myung, faced a vicious attack when he was stabbed in the neck during a visit to the city of Busan. Mr. Lee, who narrowly lost the 2022 presidential election, sustained a 1cm laceration on the left side of his neck, leading to his immediate airlift to a hospital. Fortunately, doctors have confirmed that the wound is not life-threatening.

Attack on Lee Jae-myung: Shocking Assault on South Korean Politician Sparks Outrage

The attacker, a 66-year-old man, openly stated that he had intended to kill Mr. Lee, adding an alarming dimension to the brazen daytime assault. The motive behind the attack remains unclear, sending shockwaves across the nation and prompting swift condemnation from various political parties and politicians, including the current President Yoon Suk Yeol.

The incident unfolded during a news conference where Mr. Lee Jae-myung was addressing reporters at a construction site in the port city of Busan on Tuesday morning. The assailant approached Mr. Lee Jae-myung under the guise of seeking an autograph, only to suddenly lunge forward with an 18cm (7in) knife purchased online. Prompt intervention by those present led to the immediate overpowering and arrest of the attacker.

Prosecutors plan to bring attempted murder charges against the assailant, marking a swift response to this grave assault. Videos circulating on social media captured the moment Mr. Lee Jae-myung collapsed into the crowd and then onto the ground, while individuals attempted to restrain the attacker. Subsequent photographs depicted Mr. Lee lying on the ground with closed eyes, receiving assistance with a handkerchief pressed against the side of his neck.

Opposition Leader Lee Jae-myung Stabbed in Neck During Busan Visit

A spokesman for Mr. Lee’s Democratic Party of Korea expressed concern over a potential injury to his jugular vein, necessitating urgent surgery to prevent further bleeding. The party deemed the attack as “a clear act of democracy destruction,” while President Yoon emphasized that South Korea “should not tolerate such acts of violence under any circumstance.”

Lee Jae-myung, aged 59, currently holds a seat in Incheon in South Korea’s legislature. His political journey took a notable turn when he narrowly lost the 2022 presidential election, with a mere 0.73% difference in votes, making it the closest presidential race in South Korean history. Despite the setback, Mr. Lee is widely expected to stand in the 2027 presidential elections.

A former civil rights attorney who experienced poverty and worked in factories during his childhood, Mr. Lee’s working-class roots have fueled his commitment to fighting inequality. This stands in contrast to the reported average net worth of 2.3 billion won ($1.8 million; £1.4 million) for most South Korean parliamentarians.

Since his electoral defeat, Mr. Lee has faced legal challenges, being indicted on corruption and breach of trust charges. Prosecutors accuse him of allowing private developers to unlawfully profit from a property project during his tenure as the mayor of Seongnam. Mr. Lee vehemently denies these charges, dismissing them as politically motivated.

In September, a court rejected the prosecution’s request to detain Mr. Lee while awaiting trial. However, prosecutors continue to investigate him on several other corruption-related cases from his time in office. This dismissal followed a 19-day hunger strike staged by Mr. Lee to protest against President Yoon’s foreign and domestic policies, culminating in his hospitalization.

South Korea, known for its generally low crime rate, witnessed an increase in mass stabbing attacks last year. The country maintains strict regulations regarding the possession of guns and other weapons, with public figures typically not under tight security protection. However, there have been instances of South Korean politicians facing physical attacks with weapons in the past.

In March 2022, Mr. Lee’s predecessor as Democratic Party leader, Song Young-gil, encountered an attack with a blunt object while campaigning for Mr. Lee, resulting in a laceration. In 2006, conservative party leader Park Geun-hye, who later became president, was attacked with a knife, leaving a scar on her face. Additionally, in 1979, her father, Park Chung-hee, South Korea’s president for 16 years, was shot and killed by his spy chief during a private dinner.

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