South Korea's Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon dead, accused of sexual harassment
Seoul's Mayor, Park Won-soon, whose body was found in the woods at Mount Bugak last week on Friday after an apparent suicide, has been accused of sexual harassment by his former secretary. His death had come a day after a police complaint was filed by the former secretary for his behaviour.
Park Won-soon was being billed to be a possible presidential candidate in the future in South Korea. He reportedly left a note to his family prior to his suicide with a funeral being conducted on Monday. Mr Park's state-run five-day funeral has met opposition after over 500,000 people signed a petition asking for it not to be allowed to proceed.
The former secretary's lawyers on Monday during a media briefing said she was sexually harassed by the mayor for four years. She alleged that the mayor had called her into his office bedroom asking her to hug him while also sending her pictures of himself in his underwear. She went on to state that she was denied any help upon approaching the Seoul City Hall. In a letter written by her read at the press conference, it stated, "I should have reported this in the beginning. I wonder if had, I wouldn't be blaming myself now."
She added that she was shocked to learn of her former employer's sudden death and that she was "questioned all night" after she filed a complaint to the police. She said, "The word death was something I could not have spoken of - even during my hardest times. It was truly so disappointing and I still do not want to believe it. I wish the dead good will."
Many in South Korea expressed their displeasure for a five-day funeral for Park Won-soon and took to registering petitions on the South Korean presidential website. More than 560,000 petitions were filed with many asking, "Do the people need to watch a fancy five-day funeral for a famous politician whose sexual harassment allegation led to his suicide?". It further added, "What kind of message does that send to the people? It should be a quiet, family funeral." A court in Seoul had rejected an injunction to halt the state-run public funeral on Sunday.
On Monday, more than 20,000 people showed up to pay their final respects to Mr Park despite heavy rain and express their support for the late mayor of Seoul. The funeral service, which was broadcast online, saw social distancing being implemented by the authorities as 100 people were allowed to attend. Paik Nak-chung, a literary critic who assisted in conducting the funeral said, "Mourning doesn't necessarily exclude soul-searching, but now is time to mourn,"
Park Won-soon, 64, became the Mayor of Seoul in 2011 and followed it up with victories in two other elections. Billed to be by many as a potential presidential candidate for 2022, he was a member of South Korean President Moon Jae-in's liberal Democratic Party. It is to be noted that as a lawyer he had won the country's first sexual harassment case while also bringing to light the various economic inequalities predominant in the country. He also protested against authoritarian rule in the 1970s and was imprisoned for it.