The leader of South Korea's Democratic Party Song Young-gil was struck on the head while campaigning for his party's presidential candidate.

Song Young-gil is reportedly in stable condition and the attacker was subdued by officials and handed to police.
Song Young-gil is reportedly in stable condition and the attacker was subdued by officials and handed to police. (AP)

The chief of South Korea's ruling party has been admitted to hospital after being hit on the head by a stranger while campaigning for this week's presidential election, in which early voting has been marred by some lapses.

Monday's attack on Song Young-gil, leader of the Democrats, was yet another twist in a race overshadowed by scandals, smear tactics and gaffes.

"Violence harms democracy, it can never be accepted," the party's presidential candidate, Lee Jae-myung, told another rally in the southeastern port city of Busan, and wished Song a rapid recovery.

Song was struck on the head with a small hammer-like tool, wielded by a man wearing a traditional robe who approached him from behind, a video uploaded to YouTube by a Democrat campaigner showed.

Party officials said Song was in stable condition and the man, subdued by officials, was handed to police.

A tight race between Lee and Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative main opposition People Power Party was reflected in a record turnout of nearly 37 percent in two days of absentee voting that ended on Saturday.

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Chaos at early voting places

The attack on Song came as poll officials scrambled to revamp plans after early voting procedures were blighted by long waits outside poll stations for coronavirus sufferers, while other voters received ballots already marked.

As daily Covid-19 infections hover near unprecedented levels above 200,000 and more than 1 million receive treatment at home, parliament passed a legislative amendment to ease in-person voting by such patients.

But chaos erupted at many polling places during Saturday's special early voting for infected voters, spurring repeated apologies from the National Election Commission (NEC) for failing to ensure a stable and orderly process.

Officials held an emergency meeting on Monday to tighten procedures ahead of the wider vote.

President Moon Jae-in expressed regret on Sunday, asking the NEC to fully explain the errors and guarantee all people's right to vote, his spokeswoman said.

The chaos represented a blow for South Korea, tarnishing its 35-year democratic history of tight and relatively transparent management of elections, and a mostly successful fight on Covid-19.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies