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South Korean police investigating 14-year-old boy as suspect of attack on lawmaker

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — An assailant who repeatedly struck a South Korean lawmaker with a rock as she tried to resist was a 14-year-old boy who was sent to a mental health facility Friday, Seoul police said as they continue to investigate the attack.

The attack Thursday on Bae Hyunjin, a member of the conservative ruling party, came just weeks after a man stabbed opposition leader Lee Jae-myung in the neck, and it raised further concerns about the toxic discourse around the country’s intensely polarized politics.

Bae was treated for cuts. Doctors said she avoided serious injury.

Police investigators who interviewed the middle-schooler suspect in the presence of his parents sent him to a hospital early Friday where they plan to continue investigating him, said Cheon Young-gil, an official at Seoul’s Gangnam district police station.

South Korea’s laws allow for emergency admissions in which a person suspected of mental illness can be hospitalized for a maximum three days, based on consent of doctors and police, if there is concern the person could inflict harm on other people or themselves.

Cheon refused to discuss the health details of the suspect, who was detained at the scene following the attack Thursday afternoon at a building in southern Seoul. South Korean media, citing anonymous acquaintances of the boy, reported that he had been receiving treatment for depression.

“The emergency admission was based on consideration of the suspect’s age and his health condition,” Cheon said, without elaborating. He said the police could seek to extend the boy’s admission at the hospital after the initial three days if his parents agree.

Police also interviewed Bae Friday at the Soonchunhyang University Seoul Hospital where she