South Korean opposition leader recovering in intensive care after stabbing

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South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was recovering in intensive care after he was stabbed in the neck on Tuesday by a man who pushed through a crowd pretending to be his supporter, his party said.

Lee was surrounded by journalists when a man lunged and struck him on the left side of his neck, Busan police official Son Je-han said at a press briefing.

Lee was first taken to hospital in Busan, then flown to the capital Seoul where he underwent a two-hour surgery, Kwon Chil-seung of Lee’s Democratic Party told reporters.

“Damage to the internal jugular vein was confirmed,” Kwon said.

Lee was conscious after the surgery and is “currently admitted to the intensive care unit and is recovering”, Kwon added.

The attacker was arrested at the scene.

Police official Son told reporters that he was a man in his 60s who “used an 18-centimetre knife — its blade is 13 centimetres long — which he purchased online”.

In footage aired on South Korean television stations, police were seen wrestling the suspect, who displayed a pro-Lee slogan, to the ground.

South Korean authorities plan to bring attempted murder charges against the assailant, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The attacker told the police, according to Yonhap, that his intention was to kill Lee.

The 59-year-old politician was “walking to his car while talking to reporters when the attacker asked for his autograph”, a witness told local broadcaster YTN.

In TV footage, Lee was seen collapsing to the ground as people rushed to help him.

Yonhap earlier reported, citing fire department officials, that Lee suffered a one-centimetre laceration in the attack.

Several high-profile South Korean politicians have been attacked in public in past years.

An elderly man hit Song Young-gil, who led the Democratic Party before Lee, in the head with a blunt object in 2022.

In 2006, Park Geun-hye, then the leader of the conservative party who later became president, was assaulted with a knife at a rally. The attack left a scar on her face.

 Presidential contender 

Lee lost in 2022 to conservative Yoon Suk Yeol in the tightest presidential race in South Korea’s history.

Yoon expressed “deep concern” for Lee’s safety after hearing of the attack, the president’s spokeswoman Kim Soo-kyung said.

“Yoon emphasised our society should never tolerate this kind of act of violence under any circumstances.”

 

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