Man who stabbed South Korea's opposition leader Lee Jae-myung jailed

A man who stabbed South Korea's opposition leader in the neck because he didn't want him to become president has been jailed for 15 years, according to court officials.

The attacker, who has been identified only by his surname Kim, targeted Lee Jae-myung after approaching him for an autograph in the southeastern city of Busan in January.

The stabbing took place ahead of the country's parliamentary elections in April - where Mr Lee's liberal Democratic Party and other opposition parties secured a victory over President Yoon Suk Yeol's conservative governing party.

Mr Lee, who underwent surgery after the attack and spent eight days in hospital, only narrowly lost out to Mr Yoon in the closest presidential election in the country's history two years earlier.

Democratic Party officials earlier confirmed the attacker, who police have said is around 67, became a member of their party last year

However, after being detained by police, he told investigators that he wanted to murder Mr Lee to stop him becoming South Korea's president.

A court verdict called the attack "a grave challenge" to the country's election systems and an act that "significantly destroys social consensus and confidence on the basic liberal democratic principles," according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency

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It cited the verdict as saying the attacker had long loathed Mr Lee because of differences of political opinions, practised stabbing his neck in advance, and followed him on five public events.

The Busan District Court said the man was handed a 15-year prison term after being found guilty of attempted murder and a violation of an election law.

The court said that both the man and prosecutors have a week to appeal the sentence.

Mr Lee, a sharp-tongued former provincial governor, lost the 2022 presidential election to Mr Yoon, a former top prosecutor, by the narrowest margin recorded in a South Korean presidential election.

Their closely fought race and post-election political bickering have intensified South Korea's already toxic conservative-liberal divide.

Surveys have showed that Mr Lee is one of the early favourites for the 2027 presidential election.

Mr Yoon is by law barred from seeking re-election.