SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A man rammed a car onto a sidewalk Thursday in the South Korean city of Seongnam, then stepped out of the vehicle and began stabbing people at a shopping mall, leaving at least 14 people wounded.
Just hours after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Friday called for “ultra-strong” law enforcement measures in response to that attack, police found themselves chasing the suspect in another stabbing incident at a high school in Daejeon city.
Cho Byeong-tae, an official at the Daejeon metropolitan police department, said the attack at Songchon High School left at least one teacher hurt. He did not identify the victim or provide details about the victim’s health.
At least five people were hurt by the car and nine others were stabbed during Thursday’s attack in Seongnam that occurred in a crowded leisure district near a subway, according to Yoon Sung-hyun, an official from the southern Gyeonggi provincial police department.
Authorities arrested a 22-year-old suspect at the scene and were questioning him. Police did not identify the man or offer any immediate information about a potential motive.
According to Park Gyeong-won, an official at Gyeonggi’s Bundang district police station, the suspect during police interviews talked incoherently and said he was being stalked by an unspecified source. The suspect’s family told police he had a history of mental illness.
While the suspect had purchased the two knives he used in the stabbings from a different shopping mall on Wednesday, there isn’t clear evidence he planned the attacks in advance, Park said. The attack was South Korea’s second mass stabbing attack in a month, Last month, a knife-wielding man stabbed at least four pedestrians on a street in the capital, Seoul, killing one person.
Yoon called for closer monitoring of social media to detect threats, deploying more law enforcement officers for prevention and equipping them with better suppression gear, according to Seoul’s presidential office.
An official at Gyeonggi’s provincial fire department, Ha Dong-geun, said at least two of those who were wounded after the suspect drove the car onto the sidewalk were hospitalized in critical condition. Among the nine who were stabbed, eight were being treated for injuries seen as serious.
Photos from the scene showed forensic units examining the halls of the AK Plaza, where the stabbings took place. A white Kia hatchback with a broken front window and ruptured front tire could be seen on a sidewalk near the subway station.
South Korea’s Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper published a video on its website that it said was sent by a witness. The footage showed a man wearing sunglasses and a black hoodie walking up the mall’s escalator with an object in his hand.
A witness named Hwang Hee-woon told YTN television that he “heard a sound from the first floor that seemed like a scream, so customers and shop workers were gathering on the rails of the second-floor near the escalator to see what was happening below.”
“Suddenly, someone told us the person who committed the crime was coming up to the second floor, so we ran away in panic,” he said. He ended up hiding inside a refrigerated storage room with some mall employees.
The National Police Agency held an online meeting Thursday with regional police chiefs to discuss ways to deal with stabbings and other attacks against random targets. Officials discussed increasing nighttime patrols in leisure districts and other crowded areas and strengthening security camera surveillance, according to the agency.