Man who stabbed South Korean opposition leader sentenced to 15 years in prison

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A man who stabbed South Korean opposition leader was sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this year for being stabbed in the neck, court officials said.

The knife-wielding man attacked Lee Jae-myung, leader of the liberal Democratic Party, South Korea’s largest political party, in January after approaching him to ask for his autograph at an event in the southeastern city of Busan. After being detained by police, he told investigators he wanted to kill Lee to prevent him from becoming president of South Korea.

The Busan court said the man was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of attempted murder and violating an election law.

The court said both the man and the prosecutors have one week to appeal.

The attack took place before the country’s pivotal events. parliamentary elections in April, which ended with a landslide victory for Lee’s Democratic Party and other opposition parties over the conservative ruling party of President Yoon Suk Yeol.

A court ruling called the attack “a serious challenge” to the country’s electoral system and an act that “significantly destroys societal consensus and trust in fundamental liberal democratic principles,” according to Yonhap news agency. It quoted the ruling as saying that the attacker had long detested Lee because of differences in political views, had stabbed him in the neck beforehand and followed him to five public events.

The court’s public affairs office could not immediately confirm details of Friday’s verdict. The court did not release the man’s identity. Police previously said he was about 67.

Democratic Party officials previously confirmed that the attacker joined last year. The ruling People Power Party said he is not currently a member, but media reports said the man, identified only by his surname Kim, was previously affiliated with the party’s predecessor.

Lee, an astute former provincial governor, lost the 2022 Presidential Election to Yoon, a former chief prosecutor, by the narrowest margin ever in a South Korean presidential election.

Their bitterly fought racial and political strife after the election has exacerbated South Korea’s already toxic conservative-liberal divide. Polls have shown Lee as an early favorite to run for president in 2027. Yoon is legally barred from running for re-election.

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