Stabbed S. Korea Opposition Leader 'Recovering Smoothly'

Surgeon says attack damaged Lee Jae-myung's jugular vein
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 4, 2024 6:04 AM CST
S. Korea Opposition Leader 'Recovering Smoothly' From Stabbing
South Korea police seize materials at the office of the man who stabbed opposition leader Lee Jae-myung, in Asan, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024.   (Lee Ju-hyung/Yonhap via AP)

South Korea's main opposition leader is recovering well from surgery after being stabbed in the neck earlier this week, his doctor said Thursday, as police seek a formal arrest warrant to extend the suspect's custody. Lee Jae-myung, head of the liberal Democratic Party, South Korea's biggest political party, was stabbed by a knife-wielding man who approached him asking for his autograph at an event in the southern city of Busan on Tuesday. The man was immediately detained by police. The assault left Lee, 59, bleeding and slumped on the ground. After emergency treatment, he was flown to a Seoul hospital for an operation that lasted about 100 minutes.

After the surgery, Lee was placed in an intensive care unit at Seoul National University Hospital and then transferred to an ordinary ward on Wednesday evening, according to party officials. In his first briefing since the surgery, Min Seung-kee, a vascular surgeon at the hospital who performed the operation, said Thursday that Lee "is recovering smoothly," the AP reports. Min said he will continue to closely monitor Lee for any possible complications. Min said the stabbing damaged Lee's jugular vein but did not affect his artery, cranial nerve, esophagus, or respiratory tract. Min said he conducted a procedure called revascularization, which required stitches to close a cut to the vein.

The suspect's motive isn't known, though he told police that he attempted to kill the politician and that he had plotted the attack alone. Busan police said they have requested a warrant to formally arrest the suspect. Under South Korean law, police can detain a criminal suspect for up to 48 hours, but a court-issued arrest warrant is needed to extend custody for 10 more days. Police have disclosed few details about the suspect other than he is 67 and bought the outdoor knife online.

story continues below

Local media reported that the suspect was previously a member of the conservative governing People Power Party but recently quit and joined Lee's Democratic Party. Some of Lee's supporters speculated that the suspect may have thought that having Democratic Party membership would make it easier to obtain Lee's schedule for an attack. One of the suspect's neighbors in Asan, a city near Seoul, described him as a quiet, shy man who rarely spoke about politics. The neighbor told the AP that the suspect runs a real estate agency in Asan but is several months behind in his rent. (More Lee Jae-myung stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.