South Korean opposition leader stabbed, rushed to hospital

Lee Jae-myung was attacked during a press conference in Busan.

January 2, 2024, 3:15 AM

SEOUL, South Korea -- An opposition leader in South Korea was attacked during a press conference on Tuesday, according to the Busan Metropolitan Police.

South Korean Democratic Party Leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck by an assailant in Busan, South Korea, according to police.

Lee was transferred to Seoul National University Hospital via helicopter, Democratic Party spokesperson Kwon Chil-seung told journalists in front of Busan University Hospital on Tuesday.

Doctors found damage to Lee's jugular vein, the spokesperson said.

South Korean opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung, who was attacked in Busan, gets off from a helicopter on a stretcher to be transported to Seoul National University Hospital, at a heliport in Seoul on Jan. 2, 2024.
Yonhap/AFP via Getty Images

"This is an act of terror on Representative Lee Jae-myung and a serious threat to democracy which should never take place under any circumstances. We ask the police to investigate the case without any doubt," Kwon said.

When asked about Lee's condition, Kwon said he would "judge upon hearing doctor's opinion."

Lee was attacked while answering questions from the press after touring the site of Gadeokdo New Airport. The assailant approached him shouting for an autograph, and then attacked him, according to police.

Video footage from the scene showed Lee moving slowly through throngs of reporters, including some holding cameras and phones. A man approached Lee from the front and appeared to jab him in the throat.

South Korea's opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung speaks during his visit to Busan, South Korea, Jan. 2, 2024.
Yonhap/via Reuters

Police confirmed that Lee suffered a wound that was about one centimeter wide. Lee was taken to Busan National University Hospital, provided with emergency treatment and then transferred to Seoul National University Hospital around 1 p.m. Lee was conscious after the attack, officials said.

Police briefed journalists in the afternoon that the suspect is a man born in 1957, adding that the exact circumstances of the attack are currently under investigation. The weapon allegedly used by the suspect is about 18 cm long and was purchased through the Internet, police said. Busan Police said they plan to establish an investigation headquarters with 68 people led by the head of the investigation department.

President Yoon Seok-yeol, who won the presidency over Lee in the 2022 general election, expressed concern about his wellbeing in a statement.

The president said he has instructed the police and other authorities to investigate the attack and to do their best to support Lee Jae-myung's hospital transfer and treatment.

The president stressed that "our society should not tolerate such acts of violence in any case."

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