Back-to-back stabbing rampages leave South Korea on edge

The National Police Agency announced a "special policing operation" on Friday to respond to the wave of violent attacks, which included a rampage that left 14 injured on Thursday night. Photo by Yonhap
1 of 5 | The National Police Agency announced a "special policing operation" on Friday to respond to the wave of violent attacks, which included a rampage that left 14 injured on Thursday night. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- A man was arrested in the city of Daejeon after stabbing a high school teacher on Friday, one day after a rampage at a mall left 14 people injured, rattling people and prompting law enforcement to launch its first-ever "special policing operation" to contain the rare outbreak of violence in South Korea.

Police in Daejeon, 85 miles south of Seoul, said a man in his 20s broke into a high school and stabbed a 49-year-old teacher multiple times in the face, chest and arm at 10 a.m. before fleeing. He was apprehended shortly after noon.


The teacher underwent emergency surgery and remains in critical condition, police said.

The attack came one day after a 22-year-old man drove his car into pedestrians and then began randomly stabbing people inside a busy department store in Bundang, near Seoul, on Thursday. Fourteen people were injured, including two critically.


Police visibly ramped up their presence around Seoul on Friday, as law enforcement and justice officials laid out new measures to combat the wave of senseless violent attacks, which have become known as "Don't Ask" crimes in South Korea.

Yoon Hee-keun, head of the National Police Agency, announced a "special policing operation" in a televised address to the nation on Friday.

"From this moment until the public unrest is resolved, the police are declaring special security activities to respond to heinous crimes, such as attacks with deadly weapons and copycat crimes, with extraordinary determination," he said.

Police will beef up patrols and employ stop-and-search operations for suspicious people on the streets, Yoon announced.

"We will not hesitate to use legitimate police force, such as firearms and tasers, for violent crimes with a weapon and will actively apply immunity from liability to police officers with public safety as the top priority to support on-site law enforcement," he said.

The back-to-back stabbings came two weeks after a knife-wielding man killed one person and wounded three others near Sillim subway station in Seoul. A slew of copycat threats posted online and shared widely on social media have added to an unfamiliar sense of anxiety in a country with a low violent crime rate.


"I've been surprised, nervous and afraid," Song Hyun, 23, said outside a subway station entrance in Seoul's busy shopping and entertainment district of Hongdae on Friday.

"I keep seeing all the other threats being made [online]," he said. "These guys are angry at society. I think they're losers."

Police arrested a man on Friday carrying a knife near a bus terminal in the Gangnam area of Seoul and said they have responded to several other "murder notices" over the past two days threatening attacks at specific times and locations, primarily targeting subway stations in Seoul and other cities.

South Korea's Justice Ministry announced Friday that it plans to add a life sentence without parole to its criminal code to help deter violent crimes, a policy it said it will pursue regardless of a pending decision by the Constitutional Court on abolishing the death penalty.

The ruling People Power Party also called for a tougher life sentence on Friday. Currently, a convicted offender serving life in prison can seek parole after 20 years.

"We discussed a life sentence without parole in order to respond to crime that is getting worse by the day," Rep. Park Dae-chul of the PPP wrote in a Facebook post after a meeting held in response to the stabbings.


"What is more important than the human rights of the perpetrator is the daily life of the general public," he wrote.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol described Thursday's department-store attack as "terrorism against innocent citizens," according to his office.

"We will mobilize all police forces to respond with the utmost strength so that the public doesn't feel anxious," he said.

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