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Stabbed S. Korean opposition leader ‘recovering well’: doctor

South Korean opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung, who was stabbed in the neck, is recovering well but still needs close monitoring to avoid complications, a Seoul National University Hospital doctor said Thursday.


Lee was surrounded by journalists in the southern port city of Busan on Tuesday when his assailant, pretending to be a supporter, pushed through the crowd and lunged at him, stabbing him on the left side of his neck with a knife.

A court in Busan issued an arrest warrant Thursday for the 66-year-old suspect, identified by his surname Kim, who was detained at the scene, the Yonhap news agency reported.

After the attack, Lee, who suffered a wound to his jugular vein, was first taken to a hospital in Busan, then flown to the capital Seoul where he underwent a nearly two-hour surgery.

Lee “is fortunately recovering well”, said Min Seung-kee, the doctor who performed the surgery.

Lee had suffered a “1.4 centimetre pierced wound that cut through his muscle”, Min said at a press conference, adding that “bouts of bleeding were found” in his neck.

The knife “cut about 60 percent of the internal jugular vein”, the surgeon said.

“But fortunately there were no signs of damage for artery, cerebral nerve, throat or airway.”

While Lee is in recovery, close monitoring is still needed, Min said, as there could be complications from the wound.

The briefing on Thursday, the first by the Seoul hospital since Lee’s surgery, follows the party leader’s transfer from the intensive care unit to the general ward on Wednesday.

Lee’s Democratic Party has said he could have been killed if the assailant’s knife had struck his artery, rather than his vein, calling it “pure fortune”.

Lee lost in 2022 to President Yoon Suk Yeol in the tightest presidential race in South Korea’s history.

Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported that the Busan court had issued an arrest warrant against suspect Kim, citing “concerns” that he may flee.

The prosecution had requested the arrest warrant on charges of attempted murder.

The warrant allows authorities to continue to hold the suspect, who was overpowered and arrested at the scene.

Kim told journalists on Thursday that he had submitted an eight-page “statement of defence” to the police, and that the press should refer to the document for his reasons behind the attack.

Police have not made the document public.

According to Yonhap, Kim had been working as a real estate agent in South Chungcheong province, around 115 kilometres (71 miles) south of Seoul.

Citing delivery messages for registered mail from banks at his office, among other materials, Yonhap reported that Kim was facing financial difficulties and had been unable to pay rent for his office for seven months.

Several high-profile South Korean politicians have been attacked in public in past years.

An elderly man hit Song Young-gil, who led the Democratic Party before Lee, in the head with a blunt object in 2022.

In 2006, Park Geun-hye, then the leader of the conservative party who later became president, was assaulted with a knife at a rally. The attack left a scar on her face.

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