SEOUL – South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has called for the mobilisation of all possible forces, and police have announced they “won’t hesitate” to use firearms after a series of stabbings shook the typically low-crime country.
The latest mass stabbing occurred on Thursday in Bundang, approximately 20 kilometres (12 miles) southeast of Seoul.
An attacker drove a car into a pedestrian walkway before assaulting people at a department store, as reported by the police.
At least two people remain in critical condition, and copycat threats were posted online shortly after the incident.
In response to the escalating situation, President Yoon issued a statement through his office, stating, “The indiscriminate knife-wielding attack at Seohyeon Station is an act of terrorism against innocent citizens. The government must mobilise all police forces to ensure the public does not feel anxious.”
The president also expressed concern about threatening messages appearing on social media.
In the wake of the president’s remarks, reports emerged of a high school teacher being attacked with a knife in Daejeon, approximately 139 kilometres south of Seoul.
These recent attacks have raised alarms, especially considering another stabbing incident in the South Korean capital on July 21, which resulted in one fatality and three injuries.
The police have launched a “special security initiative” to address knife-related violence and prevent copycat crimes, describing the situation as “an urgent emergency.”
South Korea police maximisation
Yoon Hee-keun, commissioner general of the National Police Agency, announced the maximisation of police forces, including local police, riot police units, and detectives.
Despite being typically reluctant to use firearms, the police have now declared they will not hesitate to utilise legitimate police force such as firearms and Tasers in response to knife-wielding crimes.
To prioritize public safety, police will conduct selective searches and questioning for suspects carrying knives or exhibiting unusual behaviour, following legal procedures.
The authorities are requesting the public’s understanding and full cooperation.
In addition to the police’s measures, Seoul’s justice ministry is reviewing a proposal to introduce a “non-parolable life sentence” in the criminal law as a response to these heinous crimes.
Although South Korea is generally considered a safe country, with a murder rate of 1.3 per 100,000 people in 2021 according to official statistics, recent incidents have sparked concern among citizens.
Online discussions reveal unease and some individuals considering self-defence options in light of the events.
“I’ve suggested to my mom that she carry something for self-defense, but it still makes me feel uneasy,” one individual expressed on Twitter, which is currently being rebranded as “X.”