South Korea’s opposition leader, Lee Jae-myung, narrowly escaped a potentially fatal knife attack on Tuesday during a public appearance in Busan. The assailant, a 66-year-old man, stabbed Lee in the neck with an 18cm knife, leading to a 1cm laceration. The attack occurred while Lee was at a construction site, addressing reporters during a visit to the port city.
Despite the shocking nature of the incident, doctors reported that Lee’s injuries were not life-threatening, and he was swiftly airlifted to Seoul National University Hospital. Medical staff, suspecting damage to his jugular vein, performed a two-hour surgery, and Lee is now in stable condition, recovering in the intensive care unit.
The attacker, who confessed to attempting to kill Lee, was promptly restrained by Lee’s security personnel. Authorities have identified the suspect as a man in his 60s from south Choongchung province. Prosecutors are planning to bring attempted murder charges against him.
The motive for the attack remains unclear, and the nation has expressed shock and condemnation. President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered a thorough investigation, emphasizing zero tolerance for violence and ensuring the best possible care for Lee.
This assault on Lee, who leads the Democratic Party of Korea, comes after his narrow defeat in the 2022 presidential election, marked by a 0.73% difference in votes. Lee, known for his working-class roots and advocacy against inequality, has faced corruption allegations since losing the election, allegations he vehemently denies.
The incident follows a series of attacks on South Korean politicians in recent years. Lee’s predecessor, Song Young-gil, was attacked in 2022, and in 2006, conservative party leader Park Geun-hye was stabbed. The attack serves as a grim reminder of the need for heightened security measures for public figures in the country.
South Korea, known for its low crime rate, has strict regulations around weapon possession. However, mass stabbing attacks increased in the country last year. The incident underscores the importance of addressing the safety of public figures and the nation’s continued commitment to democracy.