Seoul Mayor Found Dead on Mountain After Sexual Harassment Accusation From Secretary

Park Won-soon

Seven hours after a massive police force was tasked with searching for Seoul’s missing mayor, Park Won-soon, 64, his body was found in the wooded hills north of the city on Friday KST (Thursday night EST).

Disappearance timeline: The late mayor’s daughter called the police Thursday KST (Wednesday EST) and soon a force of 600 police and fire officers and medical personnel, three tracking dogs, and drones searched for him.

  • CCTV footage captured the mayor near Waryong Park around 10:53 a.m., and his “last cell phone signal was detected in the Seoul neighborhood of Seongbuk-gu,” also close to his home in Jongno-gu, according to CNN.
  • Park “canceled his official schedule for Thursday and called in sick to City Hall,” according to Boston.
  • His daughter called the police that same afternoon after receiving a concerning “‘will-like’ verbal message” before he left his residence, according to the Associated Press. Park’s body would be located seven hours later.
  • The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said that Park was found at “Mt Bugak in northern Seoul around midnight local time,” the area close to where his phone signal was last identified, according to Aljazeera.
  • On Friday, Choi Ik-soo, a Seoul police official told reporters that they don’t suspect homicide as “there was no sign of foul play,” reported Washington Post via Yonhap, a South Korean national news agency.

Speculation on death: Park’s cause of death is speculated to have been from suicide. His identity was confirmed when a tracking dog found his body off a hiking trail by Bugak Mountain, where his “belongings which included business cards and stationaries,” were found. There wasn’t a suicide note, Choi said, but an autopsy will be made to figure out how he died.

  • Choi confirmed that one of Park’s secretaries made an official complaint of alleged sexual harassment against Park, which was filed on Wednesday, the day before his death.
  • It was reported on by the widely popular South Korean broadcaster SBS by Thursday night the woman who made the claim worked under Park since 2017 and “allegedly suffered from repeated actions of sexual harassment by him.”

What he was known for: Park was Seoul’s mayor since 2011, a former human rights lawyer known for a case in the 1990s where he won one of South Korea’s earliest cases on sexual harassment, a supporter of the #MeToo movement in South Korea, and was a 2022 hopeful for the presidential elections.

  • According to Reuters, Park was labeled a “campaigner for women’s causes,” having expressed support and “praised women for their courage after a series of women accused powerful politicians and policymakers of sexual wrongdoings amid the #MeToo movement in 2018.”
  • He campaigned rights for the Korean “comfort women” who were sex slaves in “Japan’s wartime military brothels” during the Japanese occupation of Korea in World War II.
  • The late mayor also played a vital role in impeaching President Park Geun-hye in 2017 who “was charged with bribery, abusing state power and leaking state secrets,” according to BBC.
  • His progressive coalition, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, aided the “Candlelight Revolution” and he was vocal in the “massive candlelight demonstrations,” according to NPR.
  • Park was also known as “one of the most aggressive leaders in South Korea in fighting the coronavirus,” where he shut down nightclubs to prevent further spread.

Feature Image via Getty

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