Busan, South Korea – Opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was attacked by an unidentified knife-wielding man during a visit to the city of Busan on Tuesday, police reported. Lee, who is the head of the main opposition Democratic Party, was air lifted to a hospital in Seoul after receiving emergency treatment in Busan. Video footage showed the suspect, wearing a paper crown reading “I’m Lee Jae-myung,” in a possible attempt to pose as a supporter.
The attack occurred as Lee walked through a crowd of journalists and others after a tour of the proposed site of a new airport in Busan. The attacker approached Lee, claiming he wanted an autograph, then stabbed him in the left side of his neck, according to Senior Busan police officer Sohn Jae-han.
The suspect, aged about 67, told investigators that he bought the 7-inch knife online. Police are currently investigating the motive for the attack, and are expected to request that the suspect be formally arrested for alleged attempted murder.
Lee’s Democratic Party referred to the incident as “a terrorist attack on Lee and a serious threat to democracy.” The party called for a thorough and swift investigation by the police.
President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed deep concern about Lee’s health and ordered authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack. Lee, who lost the presidential election in 2022, has been a vocal critic of Yoon’s major policies and has faced an array of corruption allegations. He has denied legal wrongdoing and accused Yoon’s government of pursuing a political vendetta. Since his defeat, Lee has held a 24-day hunger strike to protest against Yoon’s policies.
Other violence against high-profile figures has occurred in South Korea in recent years, including an incident in which the leader of the Democratic Party was assaulted by a man wielding a hammer during a rally. In 2015, then-U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert was slashed in the face and arm by an anti-American activist.
The incident involving Lee is the latest in a series of attacks on South Korean political figures, sparking concerns about the safety of high-profile individuals in the country.