Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the main opposition party in South Korea, was stabbed in the neck during a visit to Busan. The attack, which occurred in broad daylight, has sparked widespread alarm and raised questions about the safety of political figures in the country.
A Brazen Attack Amidst Public Gaze
The stabbing took place on Tuesday while Lee was visiting the construction site of the Gadeokdo New Airport. As he engaged with reporters, an assailant, reportedly in his sixties, approached Lee under the guise of seeking an autograph and then attacked him with a 7-inch knife.
The incident, captured live on television, left the nation in shock. Footage shows Lee collapsing backwards as the attacker is subdued by bystanders.
Democratic Party spokesperson Kwon Chil-seung described the injury as a 1-centimeter laceration on Lee's neck, with suspected damage to his jugular vein.
The gravity of the situation led to Lee being transferred to Seoul National University Hospital for immediate surgery. Kwon labeled the attack as an act of "terrorism" and "a serious threat to democracy." President Yoon Suk Yeol has expressed deep concern for Lee's safety, emphasizing that such violence is unacceptable.
He has ordered a swift investigation into the incident. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party's floor leader, Hong Ik-pyo, urged members to remain calm and avoid politicizing the event.
A History of Political Violence
This attack is not an isolated event in South Korea's history of political violence.
The Democratic Party's previous leader, Song Young-gil, was assaulted with a hammer during a campaign event in 2022. Former President Park suffered a knife attack at a rally in 2006, resulting in severe facial injuries. Additionally, Mark Lippert, the former US ambassador to South Korea, faced a similar attack in 2015.
These incidents highlight a disturbing pattern of violence targeting political figures. They raise concerns about the security measures in place and the broader implications for political discourse and safety in South Korea.