Mon, May 22, 2006 - Page 1 News List

S Korean president condemns attack on opposition chief

AFP , SEOUL

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday condemned as "intolerable" an assault on opposition leader Park Geun-hye ahead of the country's mayoral and gubernatorial elections this month.

"In a democracy, terrorism or violence must not be tolerated under any circumstances in the electioneering. It is intolerable," Roh told a group of his aides, calling for a thorough probe of the incident.

Park, chairwoman of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP), sustained an 11cm cut to her face on Saturday when a man armed with a box cutter attacked her while she was canvassing in downtown Seoul, police said.

The slash from her right ear to her jaw required Park to have some 60 stitches in a two-hour operation, but her life was not in danger, according to doctors at the Yonsei University's Severance Hospital where she was treated.

ATTACKER HELD

The attacker, identified only as Ji, 50, was being held by police for questioning. Police also detained another man, known as Park, for a disturbance nearby at the time of the assault.

Seoul police chief Han Jin-ho said in a report yesterday that the two denied knowing each other. Ji had previously been jailed for more than 14 years for eight separate violent crimes.

"Ji claims that he launched the attack out of anger at his unfair imprisonment for nearly 15 years despite his innocence and no help from the authorities despite his appeals," Han said.

"We will thoroughly investigate it," he said.

Police said Park, a second suspect in the case, was a supporter of the ruling Uri Party.

The Uri Party immediately revoked his party membership.

Park Geun-hye was recuperating yesterday after surgery at the Yonsei hospital and received a number of well-wishers, including former president Kim Yong-sam and other key party officials.

"The operation proceeded well. Luckily, her facial nerves did not get harmed," Tak Kwan-chol, one of the hospital's doctors, said yesterday.

RECUPERATION

Park will be hospitalized for at least a week, but won't be able to speak well for months due to her injuries, he said.

Park had been campaigning for the GNP candidates running in May 31 elections to select mayors and governors as well as local assembly seats.

Park, a daughter of former president Park Chung-hee who ruled from 1961 to 1979, is one of the leading candidates for next year's presidential elections.

The GNP is the country's largest opposition party, with 125 seats in the 297-member assembly. The ruling Uri Party has 142 seats.

Park Geun-hye's mother, Yook Young-soo, was fatally shot in 1974. Five years later, Park's father was assassinated by the then chief of the state intelligence agency.

Local reports suggested the attack on Park Geun-hye would actually increase support for the GNP in the upcoming elections.

Prime Minister Han Myung-sook ordered the prosecution and the police to launch a joint investigation into the incident and prepare safety guidelines for politicians and candidates running in the elections.

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