| Yim Yoo-seung, 5, rests in a Seoul hospital as his mother Cho Mee-sook watches over him. (Reuters)
Seoul, Sept. 4 (Reuters): A knife-wielding man claiming he was driven by voices urging him to kill slashed nine young children today in a church school cafeteria in the South Korean capital.
A teacher at the Nungdong Presbyterian pre-school in eastern Seoul described 15 minutes of terror as 53-year-old Hwang Bom-nae slashed away with a pair of kitchen knives at students who had been eating lunch with their teachers.
“This madman was attacking the children when I came in and saw him,” said Bang Eun-kyung, 36, still sobbing and with her apron and blue blouse stained with blood.
“I said: ‘Take me instead, you lunatic’,” she said as she stood near where pools of blood had barely dried and blood-spattered dining tables were strewn with half-eaten meals.
Bang said she led Hwang out a door to the street, where some people helped subdue him and he was later arrested.
Police at the scene said two of the children were undergoing surgery. The Yonhap news agency said three of the children had suffered severe injuries.
One boy with a bandaged face was seen clutched in the arms of his shocked mother.
Later, at a nearby police station, a detective interrogated the dishevelled Hwang, an unemployed man who police said had a history of mental illness and a criminal record.
“Even now, I’m not in my right mind and I wasn’t in my right mind then,” he told the officer in the presence of reporters.
“I have no idea how many children I stabbed,” said Hwang, slumping in a metal folding chair to which he was handcuffed. Earlier, the detective in charge of the case said “a deranged man rushed into the church cafeteria and slashed nine children who were having lunch.”
“Some of the kids are seriously injured,” he said.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency had earlier reported that three of the children, including a six-year-old boy, had suffered severe head and neck injuries. All the victims were attending the church pre-school.
Yonhap quoted police as saying the man told them he had heard voices last night telling him he would be killed unless he killed others.
“He said he was haunted by somebody else who tried to kill him,” another policeman said. Although political and labour protests in Seoul in the past two decades generated spectacular scenes of violence and some deaths, violent crime is relatively rare in Seoul.