Spate of attacks unnerves Korean lawmakers as they head into campaign season

Posted on : 2024-01-29 16:28 KST Modified on : 2024-01-29 16:28 KST
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have condemned the recent attacks on their colleagues and stressed the need for measures to prevent copycat assaults
A TV news crew stands outside Soonchunhyang University Hospital on Jan. 26, where PPP lawmaker Bae Hyun-jin was being treated after being attacked by a teenage assailant. (Yonhap)
A TV news crew stands outside Soonchunhyang University Hospital on Jan. 26, where PPP lawmaker Bae Hyun-jin was being treated after being attacked by a teenage assailant. (Yonhap)

Coming roughly three weeks after the stabbing of Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung, another attack targeting People Power Party (PPP) lawmaker Bae Hyun-jin has prompted South Korean politicians to share messages unanimously condemning the use of violence against politicians and stressing the need for measures to prevent copycat crimes.

Commenting on the attack against Bae that took place last Thursday, President Yoon Suk-yeol was quoted Friday by presidential office senior secretary for political affairs Han Oh-seop as sharing a message of concern, emphasizing that “acts of terrorism against politicians, who are representatives of the public, are tantamount to terrorism against the public itself.”

In a meeting with the press on Sunday, PPP floor leader Yun Jae-ok voiced concerns about the “risk of similar crimes or copycat crimes.”

“Police protection and other security measures are restricted during election campaign periods, and I think perhaps the police should be taking the lead a bit more in establishing countermeasures during this period,” he suggested.

The PPP planned to meet Monday with the commissioner general of the Korean National Police Agency to discuss potential measures.

In a party Supreme Council meeting, Democratic Party floor leader Hong Ihk-pyo called the latest incident a “clear act of political terrorism.”

“We oppose all forms of violence and terrorism that threaten democracy,” he stressed.

The Democratic Party’s ad hoc committee on measures against political terrorism proposed the establishment of a National Assembly special committee on combating political terrorism.

Senior party spokesperson Kwon Chil-seung also suggested that authorities’ failures to take adequate measures in response to the attack against Lee Jae-myung may have contributed to the attack against Bae.

“The terrorist attack on Rep. Bae is a tragedy brought about by the passive investigating by policies, who downplayed and displayed the act of political terrorism against Lee Jae-myung,” he asserted.

The series of violent attacks against politicians has fostered a growing sense of unease among National Assembly members.

One female lawmaker affiliated with the PPP said, “This is a time when we have to be traveling all around our constituencies, so it’s scary to have incidents like this happening.”

Another lawmaker said, “It feels like everyone is defenseless and vulnerable to an attack.”

Some lawmakers have called for reflection and an end to the politics of hate.

National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo said, “We need to get away quickly from extreme politics of mutual hostility.”

In a parliamentary countermeasure meeting, Yun Jae-ok said, “Until our politics puts a stop to hatred for the other side and misguided language that disseminates that hatred to the public, there’s a strong chance that unfortunate incidents like this one will continue to occur.”

Park Won-suk, a senior spokesperson for an emerging third-way party tentatively calling itself the Grand Future Coalition, said it was “time to reflect on the ugly face of Korean politics, with its extreme oppositions between two major parties and the constant demonization of the other side.”

“The Democratic Party’s recent behavior in particular is enough to have you asking whether their aim is to marshal one of the National Assembly’s standing committees [the Public Administration and Security Committee] to politicize the attack against Lee Jae-myung,” he added. 

By Shin Min-jung, staff reporter; Lim Jae-woo, staff reporter

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