South Korea opposition leader in ICU after knife attack amid calls for tougher security

SEOUL: South Korea’s opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung remained hospitalised in intensive care on Wednesday (Jan 3), a day after a knife attack on him shocked political leaders who were vying for the upper hand in a major election three months away.

Surgeons operated on Lee for more than two hours late on Tuesday to repair a major blood vessel in his neck that was sliced when an assailant lunged and stabbed him with a knife.

“The act of terror against Chairman Lee Jae-myung was clearly a challenge against democracy and a threat against democracy,” Democratic Party floor leader Hong Ik-pyo said at a party leadership council meeting.

He urged a speedy investigation and tougher security for high-profile political figures, echoing renewed questions about the safety on campaign trails in a country with a history of political violence despite tight restrictions on gun ownership.

Jin Jeong-hwa, a party supporter who was a witness at the scene of the stabbing, said the incident clearly showed the need for stronger and professional security protection for political leaders, not simply police who are deployed to monitor.

“People like opposition leaders really need a dedicated security detail,” Jin said in an interview with Reuters. He added it was clear from his experience at political events that Lee was very much exposed to personal safety threats.

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