In a shocking daytime incident, Lee Jae-myung, the leader of South Korea's Democratic Party and former presidential candidate, was stabbed in the neck during a visit to Busan. The 66-year-old politician, who narrowly lost the 2022 presidential election, sustained a 1cm laceration on the left side of his neck, according to reports.
Despite the severity of the attack, medical staff at the hospital where Lee was airlifted confirmed that his injuries were not life-threatening. The assailant, a 66-year-old man, declared his intention to kill Lee Jae-myung, and his motive remains unclear.
The attack took place during a news conference at a construction site in the port city of Busan. The assailant, who reportedly approached Lee under the guise of seeking an autograph, lunged at him with an 18cm (7in) knife purchased online. The attacker was swiftly subdued and arrested.
President Yoon Suk Yeol, along with various political parties and politicians, has condemned the attack. Prosecutors are planning to bring attempted murder charges against the assailant.
Videos circulating on social media capture the moment of the stabbing, with Lee collapsing into the crowd before falling to the ground. Immediate efforts were made to restrain the attacker, and photographs following the incident show Lee lying on the ground, attended to by medical personnel.
A spokesperson for Lee's party expressed concerns about a potential injury to the jugular vein and emphasized the need for prompt surgery to prevent further bleeding. The party labeled the attack as "a clear act of democracy destruction," while President Yoon asserted that such acts of violence should not be tolerated.
Lee Jae-myung, who currently holds a legislative seat in Incheon, lost the 2022 presidential election by a narrow 0.73% margin. He is expected to run again in the 2027 elections. Since his defeat, Lee has faced corruption and breach of trust charges related to a property project during his tenure as the mayor of Seongnam.
South Korea has a relatively low crime rate, but there has been an uptick in mass stabbing attacks. The country maintains strict regulations on weapon possession, and public figures typically do not receive extensive security protection. This incident follows a trend of South Korean politicians being physically attacked, with a notable case in March 2022 involving Lee's predecessor, Song Young-gil, who was attacked with a blunt object while campaigning.