Attempted Murder: Man Who Stabbed South Korea’s Opposition Leader Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

A man who stabbed South Korea’s opposition leader earlier this year has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, marking a significant development in a case that has shaken the country’s political landscape.

Jul 7, 2024 - 15:17
Attempted Murder: Man Who Stabbed South Korea’s Opposition Leader Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

The knife-wielding assailant attacked Lee Jae-myung, head of the liberal Democratic Party, during a public event in January in Busan. Initially approaching Lee for an autograph, the attacker suddenly struck him in the neck. Lee, a prominent figure and a contender in South Korea’s political scene, was left injured and hospitalized for eight days following surgery.

The Busan District Court delivered its verdict, finding the attacker guilty of attempted murder and violating an election law. The court described the attack as a severe threat to South Korea’s democratic processes and public confidence in liberal democratic principles. The assailant, who remains unidentified publicly, has been given one week to appeal the court's decision.

Motive and Political Context

During investigations, the perpetrator confessed to targeting Lee due to political differences and dissatisfaction with the pace of corruption inquiries against the opposition leader. He reportedly harbored deep-seated animosity towards Lee, viewing him as an obstacle to political change and expressing intentions to hinder his party’s electoral prospects.

The attack occurred amidst heightened political tensions ahead of South Korea’s pivotal parliamentary elections in April, which saw Lee’s Democratic Party and other opposition groups secure significant victories over President Yoon Suk Yeol’s governing party.

Impact on South Korean Politics

The incident underscored the polarization within South Korea’s political landscape, exacerbated by the closely contested 2022 presidential election between Lee and Yoon. Lee, known for his outspoken demeanor and political ambitions, remains a prominent figure leading up to the 2027 presidential election, while Yoon is ineligible for reelection under South Korean law.

Reactions and Future Prospects

Lee, upon leaving the hospital in January, called for an end to divisive politics in South Korea, emphasizing the need for unity and constructive dialogue. The ruling Democratic Party and other political entities have condemned the attack, urging for calm and respect for democratic norms.