Astonishment in South Korea. While speaking to journalists in the southeast of the country, opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck on Tuesday, January 2.

The Yonhap news agency published a photo in which the politician appears on the ground, a handkerchief covering his wound. He was still conscious when he was taken to hospital. The assailant was arrested on site, according to the same source. South Korean media cited witnesses who said the man used a knife-like weapon to attack Mr Lee.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol expressed “deep concern for Lee Jae-myung’s safety after learning of the attack,” the presidency reported. “Mr. Yoon emphasized that our society should never tolerate this type of act of violence, regardless of the circumstances,” added spokesperson Kim Soo-kyung.

A candidacy for the presidency marred by scandals

Leader of the Democratic Party, Mr. Lee lost to conservative Yoon Suk-yeol in South Korea’s 2022 presidential election. Mr. Lee, a former worker and governor of Gyeonggi Province, the country’s most populous and surrounding Seoul, had proposed original measures, including a universal minimum income and free school uniforms.

But his candidacy for the presidency was marred by a series of scandals. Mr. Lee had notably been criticized for a real estate transaction considered dubious. Rampant rumors also gave him links with the mafia and his wife was accused of having illegally used public money.

In September 2023, Mr. Lee avoided arrest after a court rejected a prosecutor’s request for remand in custody pending trial on various corruption charges. He is suspected of corruption in connection with a company that allegedly illegally transferred $8 million (€7.25 million) to North Korea.

Mr. Lee is also accused of causing a company owned by the city of Seongnam (Northwest) of which he was mayor to lose 20 billion won (nearly 14 million euros).