Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon (Yonhap photo)
SEOUL – Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon was found dead in Seoul on Friday, hours after he was reported missing, police said.
A police search team found his body in the forested hills of Mount Bukak near his official residence, one minute after midnight. He is presumed to have taken his own life.
Police plan to investigate the exact cause of his death.
Park, 64, had reportedly faced a probe into allegations of sexual harassment against a former female secretary. She filed a formal complaint with the police on Wednesday over unwanted “physical contact” and “inappropriate” messages from Park, according to sources.
“A complaint has been received by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency,” a police official said on condition of anonymity, declining to elaborate on an ongoing investigation.
“(The body) did not show particular signs of homicide,” the official said, noting that an investigation will be conducted in accordance with procedures for a suicide. Park’s daughter filed a police report at 5:17 p.m. Thursday that he “had left home four to five hours ago” after leaving a message that sounded like a will and his phone was turned off.
Park left his residence in the central Seoul ward of Jongno at around 10:44 a.m., wearing a black hat, a dark jacket, black pants, gray shoes, and carrying a black backpack.
CCTV footage showed him arriving by taxi at Waryong Park in a hilly neighborhood in Jongno at 10:53 a.m.
Shortly after receiving the report of him missing, police officers launched a massive search operation around the area involving hundreds of officers, drones, and sniffer dogs.
The body was found near a bag, a water bottle, a cell phone, writing utensils, and Park’s own business card.
At 3:30 a.m., the body was placed in the morgue of Seoul National University Hospital in the same ward. His supporters could be seen waiting at the hospital, with some wailing and shouting,” Get up, Park Won-soon,” “We love you, Park Won-soon,” and “We’re sorry, Park Won-soon.”
Police plan to consult Park’s family on whether to conduct an autopsy.
Park, a member of the ruling Democratic Party, had served as mayor of Seoul since 2011 and he was regarded as a potential candidate to run for the 2022 presidential elections.
He was once a human rights lawyer and civic activist. Park had two more years in office. By law, Seo Jeong-hyup, first vice mayor for administrative affairs, will serve as acting mayor until the by-election slated for April 7, 2021.
Seo plans to give a public statement Friday morning, according to city officials.
The main opposition United Future Party expressed its condolences over Park’s death. (Yonhap)