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Seoul mayor’s death prompts sympathy, questions of his acts in South Korea

The sudden death of Seoul’s mayor, reportedly implicated in a sexual harassment complaint, has prompted an outpouring of public sympathy even as it has raised questions about a man who built his career as a reform-minded politician and self-described feminist.

Park Won-soon was found dead on a wooded hill in northern Seoul early Friday, about seven hours after his daughter reported to police he had left her a “will-like” verbal message and then left their home. Authorities launched a massive search for the 64-year-old Park before rescue dogs found his body.

Police said there was no sign of foul play at the site though they refused to disclose the cause of death. On Friday morning, Seoul officials said they were releasing what they called Park’s “will” found at his residence at the request of his family.

“I feel sorry to everyone. I thank everyone who has been with me in my life,” the note shown on TV said. It continued with a request that his remains be cremated and scattered around his parents’ graves.

Park was a huge figure in South Korean politics. As a former human rights lawyer, he led two of South Korea‘s most influential civic groups and was mayor of Seoul, the South Korean capital city with 10 million people, since 2011. He was widely considered a leading liberal candidate for president when his political ally and current President Moon Jae-in‘s single five-year term ends in 2022.

His death shocked many.

People pay tribute at a memorial altar as they make a call of condolence in honor of the deceased Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at the Seoul City Hall on July 11, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. Seoul Mayor and presidential hopeful Park Won-soon was found dead at a Seoul mountain on Friday, hours after his family reported him missing, police said.

Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images

His supporters wailed and shouted slogans like “We love you” and “We are sorry” when his body arrived at a Seoul hospital. His name was the most popular search word on main internet portal sites, and condolence messages flooded social media. On one TV program Friday morning, a panelist choked up and couldn’t continue talking about Park.

“I really respected him … I hope he can realize all his dreams in heaven,” Kim Young-hyun, a small business owner, said near Seoul City Hall.

But anti-Park sentiment also erupted amid media reports that one of his female secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment over an extend period. Police only confirmed that a complaint against Park had been filed but cited privacy issues in refusing to elaborate, including about whether the complaint was about sexual behavior.

The Associated Press made numerous calls to police, who declined to provide more details about the complaint.

Some critics questioned the image of a man who had portrayed himself as “a feminist mayor” dedicated to gender equality and a vocal supporter of the “#MeToo” movement.

During his days as a human rights lawyer, Park won South…

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2020-07-11 05:12:15

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