June 16, 2024 5:38 am

Lee Jae-myung: South Korea opposition leader stabbed in Busan

The leader of South Korea’s political opposition has been stabbed at a news conference in the southern port city of Busan.

Lee Jae-myung, who narrowly lost the presidential elections in 2022, was stabbed on the left side of his neck on Tuesday morning.

The attacker was arrested at the scene.

Mr Lee sustained a 1cm laceration and was treated in the hospital while conscious, reports said. Police said his wound was not life-threatening.

The attacker who appeared to be a man in his 60s to 70s, reportedly approached Mr Lee asking for an autograph, before suddenly lunging forward to stab him.

His weapon was about 20cm to 30cm (7.8 to 11.8in) long, Yonhap reported.

The man has been silent about both his identity and motive, the South Korean news agency said, citing police officers.

Videos of the attack posted on social media show Mr Lee first collapsing into the crowd and then onto the ground, while several people try to restrain the attacker. Photographs after the incident show Mr Lee lying on the ground with his eyes closed as someone presses a handkerchief to the side of his neck.

Yonhap said he was airlifted to hospital in a helicopter.

A spokesman of Mr Lee’s Democratic Party of Korea said medical staff suspected injury to his jugular vein, which carries blood from the head to the heart. Mr Lee would have to undergo surgery as they were concerned about further bleeding, the spokesman, Kwon Chil-seung, said.

“After being transferred to Seoul National University Hospital, we plan to operate quickly. We strongly condemn the attack and consider it a clear act of democracy destruction,” he said.

Mr Lee, 59, currently holds a seat in Incheon in South Korea’s legislature. He is widely expected to run for a seat in the next general election, which will take place in April.

He narrowly lost the 2022 presidential elections – by a mere 0.73% difference in votes – to current President Yoon Suk Yeol, making it the closest presidential race in South Korean history. He is widely expected to stand in the next presidential elections in 2027.

Since then he has been indicted on corruption and breach of trust charges, with prosecutors accusing him of allowing private developers to profit illegally from a property project while he was mayor of Seongnam, a city of 1 million people to the south of Seoul. Mr Lee has denied those charges, calling them politically motivated.

In September a court dismissed a request from the prosecution for him to be held in custody while he awaited trial on the charges. Prosecutors are still investigating him on a number of other cases linked to corruption while he was in office.

The court’s order came three weeks after Mr Lee began a hunger strike to protest Mr Yoon’s foreign and domestic policies. Mr Lee had to be hospitalised because of the strike.

There have been a number of past cases of South Korean politicians being physically attacked with weapons.

In March 2022, Mr Lee’s predecessor Song Young-gil was attacked with a blunt object while campaigning for Mr Lee. He survived with some head injuries.

In 2006, conservative party leader Park Geun-hye, who later became president, was attacked with a knife which left a scar on her face.

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