South Korea opposition chief attacked during visit to Busan | World News - Hindustan Times
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South Korea opposition chief attacked during visit to Busan

Reuters |
Jan 02, 2024 09:11 AM IST

Lee was stabbed on the left side of his neck with a weapon by an unidentified man while touring the site of a proposed airport in Busan.

South Korea's opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck during a visit to the southern city of Busan on Tuesday and was airlifted to a university hospital for treatment, party and fire officials said.

South Korea's opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung (via REUTERS)
South Korea's opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung (via REUTERS)

Lee, who narrowly lost the 2022 presidential election, was attacked by an unidentified man while touring the site of a proposed airport, the officials told Reuters.

The attack left him with a gash of about 1 cm on his neck, YTN television reported. Hospital officials did not immediately confirm the details of his injury.

Lee was airlifted by a fire department helicopter to the Pusan National University Hospital and is being treated in the emergency room, a hospital official and a fire department official told Reuters.

The assailant appeared to be a man in his 50s or 60s, who wore a paper crown with Lee's name on it, news photographs showed.

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

Jin Jeong-hwa, a Lee supporter who was at the scene livestreaming the event, told Reuters there were two dozen police officers at the scene.

The assailant was quickly subdued by men that included police officers, the footage showed.

He was refusing to answer police questions about his motives, daily Busan Ilbo reported.

Video clips on YTN television and another posted on the social media platform X showed the attack, with a man lunging at Lee with his arm stretched out. Lee grimaced and collapsed to the ground.

News photographs showed Lee lying on the ground with his eyes closed and bleeding, and other people pressing a handkerchief against the side of his neck.

PRESIDENT CONDEMNS ATTACK

President Yoon Suk Yeol condemned the attack, saying it was an unforgivable act, his office said. He expressed deep concern for Lee and instructed best care be given so he can make a speedy recovery, his office said.

A former governor of Gyeonggi province, Lee narrowly lost to conservative Yoon, a former chief prosecutor, in the 2022 presidential election.

Lee is currently on trial for alleged bribery stemming from a development project when he was mayor of Seongnam near Seoul. Lee has denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations "fiction" and a "political conspiracy".

Lee has led the main opposition party since August 2022.

South Korea's next parliamentary elections are slated for April.

Although there are strict restrictions on gun possession, South Korea has a history of political violence involving other weapons. There is police presence at major events involving high-profile political leaders but they 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 attacked at an event in 2006 with a knife and suffered a gash on her faced that required surgery.

In 2015, then U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was attacked by an assailant while attending a public event, suffering a large gash on his face.

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