Park Won-soon, longtime Mayor of Seoul, South Korea, was found dead from an apparent suicide. Won-soon’s body was found at midnight on Friday after a seven hour police search in which authorities mobilized hundreds of police and fire officers as well as drones and tracking dogs. According to officials, there was no evidence of foul play.
On the prior Wednesday, one of Won-soon’s former secretaries filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. Such an allegation is particularly devastating for Won-soon because of his career fighting against sexual harassment. As a lawyer in the 1990s, Won-soon was credited with winning the country’s first sexual harassment conviction.
Won-soon was also known as an aggressive critic of Japan’s colonial era policies toward Korea, which included the exploitation of Korean women as sex slaves. In 2018, Won-soon praised women involved in the #MeToo movement.
Park left a note apologizing for the suicide and requesting his ashes be spread over his parents’ grave.
Public reaction was mixed. Supporters took note of his human rights advocacy and leadership during the pandemic. Critics accused him of having committed suicide to avoid facing the consequences of his wrongdoing.
Won-soon’s family has claimed the harassment accusations are false. “If acts of defaming him continue, irrespective of the truth, we will sternly respond with legal action,” said Moon Mi-ran.
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