South Korean Opposition Leader is Stabbed in the Neck by a Knife-Wielding Man

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South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung, center, speaks as he visits the construction site of a new airport in Busan, South Korea, 2 January 2024. (Photo: AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck by an unidentified knife-wielding man during a visit on 2 January to the southeastern city of Busan, police said.

Lee, head of the main opposition Democratic Party, was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Police and emergency officials said he was conscious and wasn’t in critical condition, but his exact status was unknown.

The attack happened when Lee walked through a crowd of journalists and others after finishing a tour of the site of a new airport in Busan. The attacker, posing as a supporter, approached Lee, saying he wanted to get his autograph, and then stabbed Lee in the neck with a knife, according to Busan police.

Lee slumped to the ground, where a person pressed a handkerchief to his neck to stop the bleeding. A witness, Jin Jeong-hwa, told YTN television that Lee bled a lot.

Videos circulated on social media showed the suspect, wearing a paper crown reading “I’m Lee Jae-myung,” being chased and tackled by several people.

Police said officers arrested the man on the spot. During questioning, he refused to say why he attacked Lee, according to Yonhap news agency.

Lee’s Democratic Party called the incident “a terrorist attack on Lee and a serious threat to democracy.” It called on the police to make a thorough, swift investigation of the incident.

President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed deep concern about Lee’s health and ordered authorities to investigate the attack, saying such violence would not be tolerated, according to Yoon’s office.

Lee lost the 2022 presidential election to Yoon by a narrow margin.

Lee, a liberal former provincial governor, is known for his outspoken style. His supporters see him as an anti-elitist hero who could reform establishment politics, eradicate corruption, and solve growing economic inequality. Critics view him as a dangerous populist who relies on stoking divisions and demonizing his conservative opponents.