The leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, the main opposition party, Lee Jae-myung in South Korea was stabbed on the left side of his neck while at a rally in Busan city. The attacker is said to have wielded a knife and supposedly asked Lee Jae-myung for an autograph while Lee was walking towards his car. This incident happened on 2nd January while he was on a political visit to the port city, to tour the new airport site on a small island in Busan.
Since the incident took place with a big crowd around it, there are multiple photos of the opposition leader lying on the ground with a cloth pressed against his jugular vein on his neck. According to reports, the cut was less than half an inch long and Lee was conscious throughout his hospitalisation process as he did not experience much loss of blood.
The suspect, who was wearing a paper crown with Lee’s name on it, has still not been identified, although eyewitness reports vary. Some witnesses allege that the perpetrator was a man in his 50s or 60s, while some allege that he was an older man in his 60s or 70s. The knife he was holding was 20-30 centimetres (around 8-12 inches) in length, which the perpetrator then used to stab Lee’s neck. However, a suspect of the crime is in custody, one official is quoted to have been saying according to NBC News.
The South Korean Constitution prohibits any candidate from being in office for more than one term. Lee belongs to the Democratic Party which is currently the main opposition to the incumbent government. The party describes itself as centre-left leaning. The Presidential Election of 2022 was the closest election in Korea, where President Yoon Suk Yeol of the People Power Party won by a margin of 0.73%. The People Power Party is a conservative political party. With such a division of votes, the 2022 election was a historical one. Although the polls showed the two candidates to be quite unpopular, the high turnout of 77% ultimately turned the tables in Yoon’s favour.
This attack comes at a time when the next legislative elections are provisional to be held on April 10, 2024. The President condemned the attack on Lee. Kim Soo-kyung, Yoon’s spokeswoman was quoted by AFP as saying, “Yoon emphasised our society should never tolerate this kind of act of violence under any circumstances.” Yoon also allegedly ordered officials to make sure that Lee receives “the best of care”. The spokeswoman added that the President is not tolerant towards any sort of violence and this kind of attack should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Since the blood loss was minimal and the cut was not deep enough for Lee to lose consciousness, the opposition leader is said to be doing fine after undergoing emergency treatment in the hospital. The Busan Hospital confirmed that the injury did not pose a huge threat to his life.
South Korea has been quite strict when it comes to its gun laws and restrictions on civilians using these automatic weapons. It clearly states that only government-authorised personnel are allowed to carry or own guns, and it is extremely difficult for a civilian to even get a permit. Some fines go up to $18,000 and prison terms of ten years if an unauthorised citizen is caught participating in the buying or selling of guns. However, it is more difficult to regulate smaller non-automatic weapons such as knives. This has prompted attackers to use either knives or blunt objects in order to achieve their goal.
There have been an astounding amount of political attacks in South Korea in the last twenty years, with an even more concerning history of political violence that goes back to its very conception in 1948, after the independence from Japan. In 2006, the conservative leader of the opposition, Park Geun-hye was also stabbed in a rally. She had to get 60 stitches due to the enormous gash on her face. She was reported to not have been able to speak normally for weeks. The ambassador to the United States also needed 80 stitches for a gash to the face. The assailant was a Korean nationalist who was protesting the annual military exercises which are held as a mark of friendship between South Korea and the United States of America. Even Lee’s predecessor, Song Young-gil was attacked with a blunt object on the back of his head. This was also reported to have been an attack protesting the South Korean and US military exercises.
The Democratic Party of Korea condemned this attack and its spokesperson has said to reporters that as long as the Democratic Party is concerned, this is “an act of terror” and it is “a threat to democracy which never should have occurred”.
Edited by; Victoria Muzio
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