Rep. Kim Sung-tae, the floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, was assaulted on Saturday by a man who called for the parliament to play a role in the inter-Korean peace mood, officials said.
The 31-year-old man, identified only by his surname Kim, hit the chin of the lawmaker as he was walking up the stairs toward the bathroom in the National Assembly's main building.
The lawmaker has been on a hunger strike since Thursday, calling for an independent counsel investigation into an online opinion rigging scandal involving a blogger with alleged ties to ruling party lawmaker Kim Kyung-soo.
The floor leader did not sustain life-threatening wounds, while complaining of severe headaches and pain in his chin, according to LKP spokesman Chang Je-won.
While a police probe is underway into what motivated him to assault the lawmaker, the suspect expressed his hatred toward the opposition party.
"The Liberty Korea Party is not for South Korea, but only for themselves," the assailant told reporters before facing police questioning, claiming that the lawmaker "deserves" the attack.
Details on his identity are not known, and officers said they have are having difficulty investigating him as he has been making "incoherent comments."
Upon attacking the lawmaker, the assailant called on the National Assembly to play its role in pushing forward the Panmunjom Declaration between the two Koreas, according to spokesman Chang.
In a historic inter-Korean summit last week at the border village of Panmunjom, South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed the declaration to affirm their commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
"While being restrained by party officials, the man yelled, 'Let's achieve the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Is it that difficult for the parliament to ratify the declaration?'" Chang said.
Calling the incident "unprecedented in Korean history," the opposition vowed a strong response.
"The incident constitutes terrorism against democracy and the opposition party as a whole ... We will trace who masterminded the attack and hidden political schemes to the end," the spokesman said in a release.
The party plans to hold an emergency meeting later in the day to discuss follow-up measures, while some LKP lawmakers are to join the hunger strike in a sign of protest, with the victimized lawmaker expressing his will to continue the protest, according to officials.
Meanwhile, the incident led to the cancellation of a planned negotiation session among floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties, which was aimed at seeking a breakthrough for the stalled parliament.
The National Assembly has been under fire for being paralyzed over the past month due to partisan squabbles over a series of key issues, including the online opinion rigging scandal and the government proposal for a supplementary budget, among others. (Yonhap)