South Korean Opposition Party Leader Stabbed in the Neck During Press Conference

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Lee Jae-myung, South Korea’s tough-speaking liberal opposition leader, was attacked by an unidentified assailant wielding a knife in the southeastern city of Busan.

The 59 year old head of the main opposition Democratic Party was airlifted to a Seoul hospital for surgery after receiving emergency treatment at the scene.

Initial reports indicated that he remained conscious and not in critical condition following the attack, though his exact status is unknown.

At a televised briefing, Senior Busan Police Officer Sohn Jae-han reported on the attack of Lee as he walked through a crowd of journalists and others after a tour of the proposed site for a new airport in Busan.

The assailant approached Lee claiming to want his autograph, then stabbed him in the left side of his neck with a knife. Quickly responding Democratic Party officials nearby restrained the attacker before police officers arrived at the scene.

Forty-one police officers had been dispatched to manage traffic and control crowds in the area.

TV footage captured the moment Lee lay on the ground, eyes closed, with a person attempting to stanch the flow of blood from his neck. Jin Jeong-hwa told YTN television that Lee had bled profusely.

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Social media videos also showed the 67 year old perpetrator wearing a paper crown reading “I’m Lee Jae-myung” being pursued and apprehended by several individuals, including police officers in plain clothes.

The suspect informed investigators that he acquired an 18 centimeter (7 inch) knife from an online source. Police are investigating both his motive and whether to formally charge him with attempted murder due to indications that he meant to kill Lee.

Lee’s Democratic Party described the incident as “a terrorist attack on Lee and a serious threat to democracy,” urging police to carry out a detailed and expeditious investigation.

At Pusan National University Hospital in Busan, where Lee received emergency treatment, spokesperson Kwon Chil-seung noted concern over the severity of bleeding stemming from suspected damage to his jugular vein; hospital officials declined comment on Lee’s condition.

President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed grave concern regarding Lee’s health and instructed authorities to conduct a thorough investigation, declaring that such aggression would not be tolerated, as reported by Yoon’s office.

The 2022 presidential election saw Lee lose to Yoon by the smallest margin ever recorded in a South Korean presidential race: 0.7 percentage point.

Recent surveys indicate that Lee and his main conservative challenger Han Dong-hoon, a former justice minister, are the two frontrunners for succeeding Yoon when his term ends in 2027.

Since his election defeat, Lee has been an outspoken critic of Yoon’s major policies.

In 2020, Lee organized a 24-day hunger strike to express his disapproval of Japan’s release of treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Yoon’s management of the country’s post-pandemic economy and his stringent approach towards North Korea.

Lee is currently facing allegations of corruption concerning the alleged provision of unlawful benefits to a private investor who profited greatly from a questionable housing project in Seongnam, where he was mayor for ten years until 2018.

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