South Korean ruling party MP injured in attack

S. Korea defence chief warns Pyongyang of 'hell of destruction'
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A South Korean ruling party lawmaker was wounded after she was struck on the head by an unidentified assailant on Thursday, the MP’s office and her party said.

Bae Hyun-jin, 40, was hospitalised at Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital in Seoul and her condition was not life-threatening, the medical institution said.

The lawmaker was bleeding before being transferred to the hospital in the South Korean capital, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported, adding she was struck on the back of her head with a rock.

The attack comes just weeks after opposition party leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck while talking to reporters in the port city of Busan.

South Korea is gearing up for a crucial election on April 10, in which President Yoon Suk Yeol’s conservative party aims to regain a parliamentary majority for the first time since 2016.

Local broadcaster SBS aired CCTV footage released by Bae’s office, which showed the assailant following the lawmaker into a building and suddenly striking her head with an object, the nature of which was blurred.

In the footage, he continues to attack her even after she falls to the ground.

Park Seok-gyu, a doctor at the Seoul hospital where Bae was being treated, said medical staff used a stapler to perform two sutures to treat a one-centimetre scalp injury.

“Currently, it’s not a situation where there is a great deal of concern, but still, it is a situation that requires some monitoring,” Park told reporters, adding the lawmaker was experiencing swelling of the head and anxiety.

The male assailant, who allegedly asked Bae to confirm her identity as a lawmaker before assaulting her, was arrested by police at the scene of the attack in Seoul’s upscale district of Gangnam, reported Yonhap.

Police said the assailant was a minor, according to Yonhap.

Local broadcaster YTN aired an image that showed what appeared to be blood stains on the ground at the scene of the attack.

Bae, a former news anchor, was President Yoon’s spokeswoman when he was the president-elect.

The ruling People Power Party’s interim chief Han Dong-hoon visited Bae at the hospital on Thursday night and told reporters that the incident should “never have happened”.

Bae Hyun-jin asked him to “tell the public not to worry too much” as she was “overcoming the situation well”, Han said.

Opposition leader Lee underwent surgery after he was stabbed on January 2 and returned to work around two weeks later.

In a statement, ruling party spokesman Park Jung-ha expressed “serious concern about the renewed violence and political terrorism in this chaotic era filled with extreme politics and politics of hatred”.

“Extremist acts of violence are never acceptable under any circumstances.”

The opposition Democratic Party condemned Thursday’s attack against Bae as “political terrorism that threatens democracy”.

“It is an attack on democracy,” the party said in a statement.

South Korea is generally a safe country, with a murder rate of 1.3 per 100,000 people in 2021, according to official statistics.

The global average is six homicide deaths per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.

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

Song Young-gil, who led the Democratic Party before Lee, was struck in the head with a blunt object in 2022.

In 2006, politician Park Geun-hye, who later became president in 2013, was attacked with a knife at a rally.

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