South Korea's opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung was stabbed in the neck during a visit to the southern city of Busan on Tuesday and was airlifted to Seoul after receiving emergency treatment, party and emergency officials said, APA reports citing Reuters.
Lee, who narrowly lost the 2022 presidential election, was conscious and was flown to Seoul National University Hospital in the capital, after a man attacked him as he was moving among a crowd of supporters and journalists at a public event.
An official at the Pusan National University Hospital, where Lee first received emergency care, said the transfer to Seoul was possible after medical staff determined his condition was not life-threatening based on initial treatment and a CT scan.
Party spokesman Kwon Chil-seung, speaking outside the hospital soon after Lee was airlifted by helicopter, said medical staff suspected damage to a jugular vein that carries blood from the head to the heart.
"There is concern that there could be large haemorrhage or additional haemorrhage, according to medical staff," Kwon said.
The attack by the assailant, seen in video footage and photographs, unfolded quickly while Lee was touring the site of a proposed airport in Busan.
The man approached wearing a paper crown with Lee's name on it and asked for an autograph as Lee spoke among a throng of supporters and reporters, then lunged forward and attacked him, video footage showed.
A Busan police official, Son Je-han, told a news briefing the assailant was born in 1957 and used an 18-cm knife bought online. He did not identify the suspect and said the motive was being investigated.
Local media reported the police will seek the charge of attempted murder against the assailant.
Television footage and a video clip on the social media platform X showed the man lunging with his arm stretched out and stabbing Lee in the neck, the force of the attack pushing Lee back into the crowd behind him.
Lee grimaced and collapsed to the ground.
News photographs showed Lee lying on the ground with his eyes closed and bleeding, and people pressing a handkerchief against his neck.