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South Korean ruling party lawmaker sustains head injury in attack

By Yonhap News Agency
Rep. Bae Hyun-jin of South Korea's ruling People Power Party in the National Assembly, was attacked on Thursday. File Photo by Yonhap
1 of 3 | Rep. Bae Hyun-jin of South Korea's ruling People Power Party in the National Assembly, was attacked on Thursday. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- People Power Party lawmaker Rep. Bae Hyun-jin sustained a head injury after being attacked by an unidentified assailant Thursday and remained in stable condition, her office said.

The attack happened about 5 p.m. in the southern Seoul district of Gangnam. According to Bae's aide, a male pedestrian walked up to her and asked, "Are you the lawmaker Bae Hyun-jin?" and struck her in the back of the head with a rock the size of a man's fist.

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Bae was transported to Soonchunhyang University Hospital with her head bleeding. Bae remained conscious and her injury was not believed to be life threatening.

A suspect was momentarily arrested by police in Gangnam, and claimed to officers that he is 15 years old.

Bae, 40, is a former television news anchor who was elected to her first term in the National Assembly in 2020. She briefly served as a spokeswoman for then President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol in 2022.

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CCTV footage provided by Bae's office showed that the attacker struck the lawmaker 15 times with the rock within a span of some 10 seconds until nearby witnesses physically engaged him.

Footage showed that the attacker, who wore a mask, a beanie and a hoodie, remained at the scene observing the lawmaker until Bae's aides apprehended him. He was later handed over to police.

Dr. Park Sukh-que, a neurosurgeon who treated Bae at Soonchunhyang, said the lawmaker was in stable condition after getting her wound stapled.

"When she arrived at the emergency room, she was conscious and was bleeding from the head," Park told reporters. "She seemed a little upset but at the moment, she is in stable condition in her patient room."

Park said Bae sustained a cut of about 1 centimeter on the back of her head with a bit of swelling in the area.

"We don't believe she has suffered any protracted bleeding or fracture," the doctor said. "We'll have to keep an eye on intracranial microbleed."

Park said Bae has not shown concussion symptoms but has complained of headache.

"An injury such as this may lead to concussion symptoms. In that case, she would have to remain hospitalized a little longer," Park said. "For now, she has to be stabilized."

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Bae told doctors that after she was struck in the head, she fell backward and hit her head on the pavement, as well.

Doctors found some cuts around Bae's eyes and on her face, which they believed were caused by her fall.

The attack on Bae comes some three weeks after Lee Jae-myung, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, was stabbed in the neck during a visit to the southeastern city of Busan.

In the aftermath of that attack, political opponents were united in calling for a thorough investigation.

Lee posted on Facebook that Bae's attack hit too close to home for him.

"No act of political terrorism should be tolerated. We must respond to these cases thoroughly and firmly," Lee wrote, while also wishing Bae a speedy recovery.

PPP chief Han Dong-hoon visited Bae at the hospital and told reporters an attack such as this "should never happen."

"We must get to the bottom of this case and hand down severe punishment on the assailant," Han said. "We at the PPP will do our best to uncover the truth of this incident quickly and clearly. We will also make sure the people won't feel worried over speculation."

According to Han, Bae asked the PPP chief to "tell the people to not worry too much." He said Bae apparently bled substantially, according to his account of her clothes.

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The PPP spokesperson Jung Hee-yong also called for a thorough investigation and a stern response to the attack.

"Violent crimes must be eradicated from our society," Jung said in a statement.

DP spokesperson Han Min-soo condemned the attack on Bae as "a clear act of political terrorism that threatens democracy."

"It's regrettable that our society is being polluted with hatred," Han said in a media briefing. "The DP will strive to prevent the spread of political terrorism and put an end to the politics of hatred."

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, meanwhile, instructed law enforcement to thoroughly investigate the case, describing terror attacks against politicians as a "grave criminal act that shakes the foundation of democracy."

According to his office, Han called on authorities to focus on ensuring the safety of key figures, including members of the National Assembly, and preventing similar crimes ahead of the upcoming April general elections.

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