South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung remains hospitalized

After being stabbed in the neck, Lee Jae-myung is recuperating in intensive care unit.

Lee Jae-myung, South Korean opposition candidate
Photo courtesy: 고려, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung remains hospitalized in intensive care as of Wednesday, following a shocking knife attack that reverberated across South Korea’s political landscape. The assault, occurring amid a fervent political atmosphere in anticipation of a crucial election in three months, has drawn widespread concern among leaders competing for dominance.

During a party leadership council meeting, Democratic Party floor leader Hong Ik-pyo characterized the attack on Lee as a direct affront to democracy, emphasizing the urgency of a thorough investigation and heightened security measures for prominent political figures. This incident has reignited discussions about the safety of political campaigns in a country that has historically grappled with political violence, despite stringent gun ownership regulations.

Jin Jeong-hwa, a witness to the stabbing and a supporter of the Democratic Party, stressed the necessity for specialized and adept security provisions for political leaders, emphasizing that conventional police monitoring may not suffice. He highlighted the vulnerability of opposition leaders to personal safety risks during public events.

Lee, known for his assertive progressive stance and his narrow loss in the 2022 presidential election, had been actively rallying support within the party to maintain its current parliamentary majority, countering President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative agenda.

The upcoming April 10 election in South Korea holds significant weight as conservatives aim to reclaim a majority for the first time since 2016. The attack on Lee, captured in widespread footage of the outdoor public gathering in Busan, sent shockwaves through both his party and his opponents, prompting unified condemnation of violence against political figures.

Following the attack, Lee was swiftly transported from Busan to Seoul, where surgeons undertook a complex operation to repair a severed blood vessel in his neck. He is currently conscious and recuperating in the intensive care unit, according to party officials.

In response to the incident, the leader of the conservative People Power Party curtailed scheduled public engagements, and both major parties urged restraint in statements that could potentially agitate voters while Lee recovers.

Lee suffered an electoral defeat to Yoon by an incredibly narrow margin of less than 1% in the fiercely contested presidential race of 2022. Since then, he has been shadowed by bribery allegations stemming from a development project during his tenure as mayor of a city near Seoul. He has vehemently refuted these accusations.

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