The recent attempted murder of South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was meticulously planned by his attacker, who wanted to prevent him from becoming president, police said Wednesday.

The leader of the Democratic Party was stabbed in the neck on January 2 in the southern port city of Pusan ​​by a man who, posing as one of his supporters, approached him in the middle of the crowd. Mr Lee, 60, suffered an injury to his jugular vein and required emergency surgery, but recovered well and was released from hospital on Wednesday.

The same day, police announced the results of the investigation into her attacker. “The suspect decided to kill Lee to prevent him from becoming president,” Busan police chief Woo Cheol-mun told reporters, adding that the man had been planning the attack for months.

He had purchased the knife used in the attack in April. He had followed Mr Lee five times since June, disguised as a partisan and waiting for the opportunity to strike. Police said the man committed his crime out of “political conviction.”

In the 2022 presidential election, Mr. Lee was narrowly defeated by conservative Yoon Suk Yeol. He could run again for president in 2027, and recent polls indicate he remains a strong candidate. But his campaign was overshadowed by a series of scandals. He is to be tried in a corruption case linked to a company suspected of illicitly transferring $8 million to North Korea.

“Politics of hope”

Upon his release from hospital, Mr. Lee told reporters he hoped his attack would spark a push to reform South Korean politics, marked by confrontation and a spirit of vengeance. “I, too, will reflect on my actions and strive to create a politics of hope,” he added.

According to the South Korean agency Yonhap, the suspect is a 66-year-old real estate agent who was going through financial difficulties.

Politics are extremely divisive in South Korea, where attacks on high-profile politicians are common and several former presidents have been jailed after their terms in office, following investigations launched by their rivals.