South Korean police raid home of Lee Jae-myung’s stabber

The attacker pretended to be a supporter of Lee, approached the politician pretending to ask for an autograph and then pulled out an 18-centimeter knife.

Korean police car. South Korean police searched a property of the man who stabbed Lee
Photo courtesy: hyolee2

On Wednesday South Korean police searched the home and office of a man who stabbed the opposition leader, Lee Jae-myung, in the neck, leaving him in an intensive care unit.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, when Lee was surrounded by journalists after inspecting the construction site of a new airport in the southeastern city of Busan. The assailant, who pretended to be a supporter, asked Lee for an autograph and then stabbed him with an 18-centimeter (7-inch) knife.

Lee was rushed to a hospital in Busan and then transferred by helicopter to the National University Hospital of Seoul, where he had surgery. Cho Jeong-sik, the secretary-general of his party, said on Wednesday that the surgery was successful and that Lee was recovering in the ICU. The police and emergency services had said that Lee was alert after the attack and that his condition was not critical.

The police arrested the suspect right after the attack. The police said he confessed to the investigators that he intended to kill the politician and that he acted alone, but his motives are unclear.

The Busan police said they dispatched officers to raid the suspect’s home and office in the central city of Asan on Wednesday as part of their investigation. The authorities said they would seek a formal arrest warrant for him on charges of attempted murder.

The police disclosed few details about the suspect, except that he is around 67 years old and that he purchased the mountaineering knife online. The authorities did not reveal the nature of his office in Asan, but local media photos showed the officers searching a real estate agency.

Lee, 59, is a liberal politician with a blunt style who lost the 2022 presidential election to Yoon Suk Yeol by 0.7 percentage points, the closest margin in South Korean presidential history. The close presidential race and the subsequent conflicts among his allies have deepened the rift between conservatives and liberals in the country.

Recent surveys have shown that Lee is one of the two leading contenders for the next presidential election in 2027, along with Yoon’s former Justice Minister, Han Dong-hoon. The law bars Yoon from seeking a second term.

At a New Year’s meeting with senior officials, politicians and citizens, Yoon expressed on Wednesday his hope for Lee’s quick recovery. He also called the attack “a terrorist act” that is “an enemy of all of us and an enemy of liberal democracy”, according to his office. Lee was expected to attend that meeting.

Lee has been a fierce opponent of Yoon. Last year, he staged a 24-day hunger strike to oppose Yoon’s key policies, including what he termed Yoon’s failure to strongly resist Japan’s decision to discharge treated radioactive water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Lee has faced a long-running probe by prosecutors over various corruption accusations. Lee has denied any legal wrongdoing and accused Yoon’s administration of launching a political witch hunt.

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