South Korea’s main opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed with a knife during a visit to the southern city of Busan on Tuesday, January 2.
The shocking assault left him bloodied but conscious, party officials said.
Lee was touring the construction site of the Gadeokdo New Airport when he was struck on the left side of his neck while speaking to a crowd of reporters, according to a Democratic Party official.
Lee is “in a conscious state” in hospital, according to his party’s floor leader Hong Ik-pyo who added that a detailed assessment of Lee’s condition and treatment plan would require some time.
Footage of the brazen attack, captured on live television at the press conference, showed an unidentified man at the front of the crowd who suddenly jumped at Lee and struck him in the neck, sending Lee collapsing backwards.
The attacker was then wrestled to the ground and restrained by several people.
Photos showed Lee lying on the floor with his eyes shut and a handkerchief pressed against his neck. Small amounts of blood were visible in some of the photos.
South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed “deep concern” for Lee’s safety after the attack, according to the presidential office.
Yoon emphasized such violence “should not be tolerated under any circumstances” and ordered the police to swiftly investigate, the office said.
Democratic Party floor leader Hong called for party members to remain calm and not make political interpretations of the incident.
Lee, 59, a liberal former provincial governor, narrowly lost to Yoon of the conservative People Power Party in the presidential election in March 2022.
Lee became the leader of the Democratic Party five months later and has been gearing up his party for the parliamentary elections in April.
In a briefing Tuesday, Democratic Party spokesperson Kwon Chil-seung called the attack an act of “terrorism” against Lee and “a serious threat to democracy.”
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WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung has been hospitalized after he was stabbed in the neck during a visit to the city of Busan https://t.co/ycQcSI7TIm pic.twitter.com/se5AwTTMTv
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 2, 2024