An assailant slashed the neck of South Korean presidential candidate Park Geun-Hye with a pencil knife at a campaign event in Seoul today, where she was at a political event with opposition mayoral candidate Oh Se-Hoon. The cut was 11 centimenters long and 2-3 centimeters deep. Word is, Ms. Park will be OK. The assailant appears to be a Korean man in his 40’s or 50’s.
Park very recently resigned as head of the opposition Grand National Party to start a run for the 2007 presidential election. She is also the daughter of Korea’s long-time military dictator, General Park Chung-Hee.
Update: Pictures at No-Cut News. Ms. Park is walking under her own power and doesn’t seem to be losing much blood. It looks like the would-be killer didn’t cut any arteries.
Update 2: Word from the Korean wires is that Ms. Park will be unable to speak for some time, and I’d imagine she’ll have a nasty scar and maybe even some facial paralysis. She’s lucky to be alive. You have to wonder about the assailant, who is on film and who presumably has been caught. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m no political fan of Park Geun-Hye, but I hope she recovers quickly and fully.
Political impact here? A backlash, I’ll venture to guess. Not to make too much of one incident, but this is only the latest sign that this government has been too tolerant of those who espouse violence as politics by other means, and who themselves show growing intolerance for those who criticize their violent ways. This follows some of the bloodiest anti-American demonstrations Korea has seen since the 1980’s. Koreans will probably vote for whoever promises to end the chaos in the streets, and I don’t expect to like the ways some politicians may propose to deliver that result.
We have learned something of the failed assassin’s motive:
Mr. Ji, who has eight previous criminal convictions, said in the police investigation, “I didn’t do anything wrong but had to serve almost 15 years in jail. I made petitions to related organizations, but was not given help. I was mortified, and committed the crime.”
Sorry, but not even the Korean legal system can be wrong eight times. And what to make of this?
The police are also investigating Park Jong-ryeol, 52, who caused a second disturbance immediately following the assault. Observers said that Mr. Park cursed and threw a microphone from the campaigning platform. The police also arrested Mr. Park on the scene, and he was found to have been drunk. Adding to the controversy, Mr. Park has been a member of the Uri Party since 2004 and has paid 2,000 won (about $2) a month for registration since last year. A spokesman announced the Uri Party would expel Mr. Park following the incident. Regarding suspicions that Mr. Ji and Mr. Park were acting together, the police said they had not yet found any connection between the two.
Ms. Park appears to be doing as well as can be expected, but she was hurt badly:
Doctors at Yonsei University’s Severance Hospital said they had to suture Ms. Park’s wound with 60 stitches, an exceptional number for a facial cut. Tark Kwan-chul, a surgeon on the team that operated on Ms. Park, said she will be kept in the hospital all week. It will take two weeks for Ms. Park to be able to speak, he added. Doctors said that Ms. Park must go through plastic surgery in six months, and a minor scar will remain on her face.
President Roh’s reaction was appropriate:
President Roh Moo-hyun said, “Any terrorist attack and violence in the election campaign will not be tolerated,” and ordered the police and prosecution to form a joint team to thoroughly investigate, his spokesman Jung Tae-ho said yesterday.
The GNP lost points the moment its leaders opened their mouths:
Grand National Party floor leader Lee Jae-oh defined the assault as “obvious political terror, which has been planned very thoroughly.” [….] A Grand National member said, “We are expecting the assault to be a motivation to gather votes for us, for an overwhelming victory in the election.” [….] Ms. Park’s aide said, “Ms. Park can now truly position herself as an individual power politician.”
All of these people need to find another line of work. Idiots. Ms. Park, however, appears to have been remarkably cool-headed:
According to Grand National Party members with Ms. Park on the scene, on her way to hospital, she asked, “Was the assailant caught?” while covering the wound with her hands. Ms. Park’s secretary, Yoo Jeong-bok, quoted Ms. Park as saying, “Please don’t be agitated and get ready for the election.” Doctors and nurses said they were surprised to hear Ms. Park saying, “Thank you for your trouble,” before and after the operation.
I don’t award sympathy points for senseless acts like this, but I will award 10 cool points to Park Geun-Hye.