Park Won-soon: Guards, Journalists Gather in Seoul After Missing Mayor Found Dead

Police say the body of the missing mayor of South Korea’s capital, Seoul, has been found.

They say Park Won-soon’s body was located in hills in northern Seoul early on Friday, more than seven hours after they launched a massive search for him.

Park’s daughter had called police on Thursday afternoon to report him missing, saying he had given her a “will-like” message before leaving home.

News reports say one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment.

About 300-400 officers and a drone were mobilized in the search, according to police.

Kim Ji-hyeong, a Seoul Metropolitan Government official, said Park had not shown up for work on Thursday for unspecified reasons and had cancelled all of his schedule, including a meeting with a presidential official at his Seoul City Hall office.

The Seoul-based SBS television network reported that one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment, such as unwanted physical contact that began in 2017. The SBS report, which didn’t cite any source, said the secretary told police investigators that an unspecified number of other female employees at Seoul City Hall had suffered similar sexual harassment by Park.

MBC television carried a similar report.

Both the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and Park’s office said they couldn’t confirm the reports.

Park, a long-time civic activist and human rights lawyer, was elected Seoul mayor in 2011. He became the city’s first mayor to be voted into a third term in June last year. A member of President Moon Jae-in’s liberal Democratic Party, he has been considered a potential presidential candidate in 2022 elections.

Park has mostly maintained his activist colours as mayor, criticizing what he described as the country’s growing social and economic inequalities and corrupt ties between large businesses and politicians.

Early on, Park established himself as a fierce opponent of former conservative President Park Geun-hye and openly supported the millions of people who flooded the city’s streets in late 2016 and 2017, calling for her ouster over a corruption scandal.

Park Geun-hye was formally removed from office in March 2017 and is currently serving a decades-long prison term on bribery and other charges.

Seoul, a city of 10 million people, has been a new centre of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea since the country eased its rigid social distancing rules in early May. Authorities are struggling to trace contacts amid surges in cases linked to nightclubs, church services, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers in Seoul.

Park Won-soon led an aggressive anti-virus campaign, shutting down thousands of nightspots and banning rallies in major downtown streets.

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In This Story: South Korea

South Korea, an East Asian nation on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, shares one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders with North Korea. It’s equally known for its green, hilly countryside dotted with cherry trees and centuries-old Buddhist temples, plus its coastal fishing villages, sub-tropical islands and high-tech cities such as Seoul, the capital.

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