February 22nd, 2024

South Korean lawmaker is injured in an attack weeks after the opposition leader was stabbed

By Jiwon Song, The Associated Press on January 25, 2024.

People Power Party lawmaker Bae Hyunjin speaks at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, on May 31, 2023. South Korean police say a governing party lawmaker is being treated at a Seoul hospital after being attacked by an unidentified man who struck her head with a rock-like object. (Go Bum-joon/Newsis via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – A South Korean governing party lawmaker was treated for lacerations at a Seoul hospital after being attacked Thursday by an unidentified man who repeatedly struck her in the head with a rock-like object.

A police official in Seoul’s Apgujeong district said a suspect was arrested at the scene of the attack on lawmaker Bae Hyunjin in southern Seoul.

The attack, which came weeks after a man stabbed opposition leader Lee Jae-myung in the neck in the southern city of Busan, raises further concerns about the country’s intensely polarized politics.

Security camera footage showed the suspect, wearing a gray skullcap and a mask, approaching Bae inside the hallway of a building and seemingly initiating a conversation before striking her with what appeared to be a small rock.

He continued to hack at Bae with the object, even after she fell down. The video shows Bae resisting alone, waving her arms and grabbing the man’s wrist, before another person appears out of the door and attempts to intervene.

Calls to Bae’s office were not immediately answered.

Bae, a former television news presenter, was elected in 2020 and is seen as a close confidante of President Yoon Suk Yeol. Yoon’s office issued a statement calling the attack on Bae an “unacceptable incident that must be sternly investigated.”

Park Sukh Que, a neurosurgeon at the Soonchunhyang University Seoul Hospital, said Bae sustained minor injuries to the head, including scratches and a cut, and was hospitalized in stable condition.

The force of the attack caused Bae to fall on her back, but there were no signs of a concussion or internal bleeding, Park said.

“Fortunately, the bleeding wasn’t very serious,” Park said at a news conference. “She does have a headache and she’s showing a bit of anxiousness after being shaken by the attack.”

The motive of the attack was not immediately clear. South Korean media, citing anonymous sources, reported that the suspect had told the police he was 15 years old.

The man who attacked opposition leader Lee told investigators after his arrest that he wanted to kill him to prevent him from becoming a future president. Lee was released from the hospital after eight days of treatment.

“My scar is aching again after this unbelievable incident,” Lee said of the attack on Bae, describing it as an act of “political terrorism” that must not be tolerated.

“There needs to be a thorough and decisive response. We pray for a speedy recovery for lawmaker Bae and our hearts go out to her family,” Lee said in a statement.

Han Dong-hoon, leader of the governing People Power Party, called for a thorough investigation and for the attacker to be “sternly punished.”

Thae Yong Ho, another lawmaker from the People Power Party, described the attack as a “serious challenge” to South Korea’s democracy.

“Politics of hate, anger and violence must be put to an end,” Thae, a former North Korean diplomat who defected to South Korea in 2016, said in Facebook post.

___ Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

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