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The Rise of Attacks on Politicians in South Korea: A Sign of Increased Threat to Democracy in the Ginseng Country?

The world is currently shocked by the news of the stabbing of South Korean opposition politician, Lee Jae- Myung, while visiting the construction site of a new airport in Busan. He had to be rushed to the hospital due to a stab wound in his neck. Luckily, Lee’s stab wound was not life-threatening. This incident is not only about violence against individuals, but also indicates the challenges facing South Korean democracy. But what was behind the stabbing of this politician? And is this a sign that the threat to South Korean democracy is increasing?

The motive for this attack is not yet known. However, from the incident, it can be assumed that this attack was caused by political dynamics in South Korea. Lee himself is a politician who is the leader of the opposition South Korean Democratic Party and holds a seat in the South Korean legislature. He narrowly lost to his opponent, Yoon Suk Yeol, who is currently the President of South Korea in the 2022 presidential election. Lee was also indicted on suspicion of corruption, but he denied doing so and considered that it was politically motivated.

A dead body

In fact, the attack on politician Lee Jae-Myung is not a new phenomenon in South Korea; the country has a troubling history of similar incidents. For example, in 2022, Song Young-Gil, who was then the leader of the Democratic Party of South Korea, suffered a shocking attack. An unknown assailant approached and hit him on the head with a hammer. Luckily, Song Young-Gil was immediately rushed to the hospital and received medical attention, so he was able to recover from the injury.

Seven years before that incident, in 2015, an attack on a foreign figure occurred. Mark Lippert, then the US Ambassador, was attacked while attending a Korean unification forum in Seoul. The attack resulted in serious cuts to his face. This incident not only reflected security risks domestically, but also raised questions about international relations and the perception of security for foreign officials in South Korea.

Then, in 2006, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Park Geun-hye, then the leader of the conservative opposition party, was attacked as she attended a rally. According to Lee Ke-jin, a council member and supporter of Park, gave his views to Yonhap, a South Korean news agency. Lee Ke-jin said that the incident appears to be related to “election terror,” pointing to the possibility that the incident may have had political motives. The use of the term “election terror” raises the implication that the attack may have been carried out to create fear or to influence political dynamics, particularly in what are often tense and competitive elections.

Attacks on political figures threaten the very basis of a democracy that values dialog and dissent. The incident raises concerns about the safety of politicians and raises questions about the extent to which political tensions can lead to violence.

“The act of terror against Chairman Lee Jae-myung is clearly a challenge to democracy and a threat to democracy,” Democratic Party leader Hong Ik-pyo said at a party leadership council meeting.

Actually, what is the condition of democracy in South Korea? The world democracy index report notes that the level of democracy in South Korea in 2022 has decreased. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) noted that the transition from President Moon Jae-in to Yoon Suk-yeol led to the decline of democracy in South Korea, stating that years of confrontational party politics have adversely affected democracy in the country. This confrontational nature of politics has been seen to shrink the space for consensus building and compromise, often paralyzing policymaking and focusing political energy on competition rather than on consensus and improving the lives of citizens.

Over the years, confrontation-oriented politics between parties has been detrimental to democracy in South Korea. The harsh dualistic approach to politics has reduced the ability to reach agreements and compromises, often resulting in a freeze in the policymaking process. Many politicians prefer to spend their political energy in trying to bring down opponents rather than seeking consensus to improve the lives of citizens. As a result, scores in the Democracy Index for South Korea’s political culture are declining, as the public grows increasingly frustrated with the democratic process and loses trust in its leaders.

Additionally, this stabbing incident also highlights the issue of security for politicians in South Korea. It raises questions about how effective the country’s security system is in protecting public figures. Additionally, there are concerns that incidents like this could limit freedom of expression and political participation. If politicians feel threatened, this could hamper their ability to engage with society in an open and transparent manner.

The Lee Jae-Myung stabbing incident in South Korea had a major impact on freedom and security in the country’s politics. When a high-profile politician like Lee and others before him are attacked, it makes people worry about the safety of other politicians and people working in government. This can be a big problem, because if people are afraid to get involved in politics or speak up about important but controversial matters, it can hinder their freedom of speech and expression.

For example, imagine you want to get involved in politics or you have a strong opinion about something important, but you’re afraid because you saw what happened to people like Lee Jae-Myung. We might be hesitant to speak up or even reluctant to get involved at all. Situations like this can create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, which is not good for democracy. In a healthy democracy, people should be able to speak out and participate in politics without fear of violence or threats. So, incidents like this stabbing are not just about the safety of individuals, but also about how free and open politics are in a country.

The safety of politicians is one of the keys to maintaining the integrity of a democratic system. If politicians cannot feel safe, they may be reluctant to engage openly in political discussions and activities. The recent stabbing of Lee Jae-Myung points to flaws in the security system that must be addressed immediately to protect free speech and avoid negatively affecting the democratic process. Moreover, incidents like this could prompt the government to take stricter security measures, which in turn could risk restricting civil liberties. The balance between security and freedom is a critical issue. Governments should be careful not to use violent incidents as an excuse to introduce laws or policies that disproportionately restrict freedom of speech or assembly.

The Rise of Attacks on Politicians in South Korea: A Sign of Increased Threat to Democracy in the Ginseng Country?

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