NATIONAL

[2018 Local elections] Political hate crimes spike as elections near

By Bak Se-hwan
  • Published : Jun 5, 2018 - 17:04
  • Updated : Jun 5, 2018 - 18:56
A series of attacks on politicians have taken place in South Korea, heightening concerns about a rise in hate crimes as local elections close in. 

Rep. Kwon Young-jin of the Liberty Korea Party falls down after being pushed by a protestor during a political campaign Thursday in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. Yonhap

Daegu Metropolitan City mayor Kwon Young-jin of the main conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party who is running again for mayor was attacked on Thursday in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, by a middle-aged woman while campaigning.

The official campaigning period, which runs until the eve of the elections on June 13, began that day.

Video footage of the attack shows the 55-year-old mayor being pushed by a member of a disabled persons advocacy group which has been demanding more support for disabled people. Kwon fell down and was briefly hospitalized with back injuries, according to his Facebook post.

The latest major violent incident involved an attack on Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong, who is running for re-election, by a protester who was watching Won’s open debate last month on a new international airport on the island. The male protestor threw an egg at Won and slapped him on the cheek.

Also earlier last month, Rep. Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the Liberty Korea Party who is known for his conservatism and outspoken views against the Moon Jae-in administration, was assaulted by a 31-year-old male known by his last name Kim.

The floor leader was punched in the jaw on the steps of the National Assembly building main hall on May 5. Kim was on a hunger strike at the time, calling on President Moon Jae-in to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the alleged online opinion rigging involving Moon’s close aides.

The attacker, who was caught at the scene after Kim collapsed later, told the police that he hates the party and it deserves the attack, according to police.

Violence and attacks on politicians are not new especially during a political campaigning period, according to experts. In 2006, a protestor slashed former President Park Geun-hye‘s cheek with a cutter knife on a presidential campaign trail.

“Growing hatred in politics is a main factor for the recent attacks on politicians, which become most frequent during an election campaign period when politicians are actively engaged with the public,” said Bae Jong-chan, chief director of political pollster Research and Research.

“More political channels are needed in our society through which different views among interest groups can be expressed and shared freely in order to prevent such extreme circumstances,” Bae added.

By Bak Se-hwan (sh@heraldcorp.com)