#MeToo: Mayor of Seoul Kills Himself amid Sexual Harassment Complaint - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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Nemo Kim wrote:Death of Seoul mayor after harassment allegation shocks South Korea

South Korea has been left in shock after the mayor of Seoul apparently killed himself amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Park Won-soon, an activist and lawyer who had led the capital for 10 years, was discovered dead after a search party involving hundreds of officers was launched by police. A fire brigade search dog located Park’s body in a wooded area on Mount Bukak in central Seoul one minute after midnight local time (1601 BST) on Friday.

A police spokesman said an investigation was being conducted into the cause of his death, but foul play had been ruled out.

A letter was discovered in his office that read: “I apologise to everyone and thank all those who were with me in my life. I am sorry to my family to whom I only brought pain. Cremate me and spread the ashes over the graves of my parents. Everyone, goodbye.”

The 64-year-old was found dead seven hours after his daughter reported him missing on Thursday afternoon. She told police Park had made remarks hinting at killing himself and that he left his home at about 11am on Thursday.

His body was moved to the Seoul National University hospital and hundreds of politicians had visited the mourning altar by Friday afternoon.

Park’s death came two days after a former secretary filed a criminal complaint with police alleging he had sexually harassed her. According to police, the former secretary and her lawyer visited a police precinct on Wednesday where she gave her testimony until the early hours of Thursday.

South Korean media reported the woman alleged Park repeatedly sexually harassed her after she began working for him in 2017.

A representative of Park’s family issued a statement on their behalf saying it was time to let him go and urging people to avoid spreading “groundless statements”.

“If acts of defaming him continue irrespective of the truth, we will sternly respond with legal action,” said Moon Mi-ran, who formerly served as deputy mayor under Park.

Many residents of Seoul, a city of nearly 10 million people, expressed shock over the sudden death of the women’s rights advocate, whom many saw as a potential presidential candidate. The role of mayor in the capital is considered to be the second most powerful position in the country after the president.

“I feel sorry, but apart from that there needed to be a clear explanation on the sexual harassment,” said Jeon Sung-jae, an office worker.

Feminist groups have said that despite his sudden death, an investigation into the sexual harassment allegation should be carried out. The head of Korean National Women’s Solidarity, Han Mi-Kyung, said: “If there is a link between Park’s death and the allegation of sexual harassment, Park should have made his position clear during his lifetime. We have seen that there is a dark side even for prominent figures at the forefront of social change. We need to try much harder to change that.”

A criminal case involving the mayor is likely to be closed due to his death, as is usual under the South Korean legal system.

The vice-mayor for administrative affairs, Seo Jeong-hyup, said Parkwould receive a mayoral funeral organised by the city lasting five days, two days longer than the traditional Korean funeral. Seo will serve as acting mayor until a byelection scheduled for April 2021.

City officials also announced an altar would be set up in front of the city hall in central Seoul for citizens wishing to pay their respects. Police said they would provide extra safety and security measures for the woman who made the claim against Park, after she was the subject of online threats.

There has been a number of sexual abuse cases in recent years in South Korea, including those involving former the former South Chungcheong governor Ahn Hee-jung and the former Busan mayor Oh Keo-don.

If Park is found to have killed himself, he would be the highest-ranking politician to take his own life since the former president Roh Moo-hyun did so in 2009 after the state prosecution service began investigating corruption allegations against members of his family.

The ruling party chief, Lee Hae-chan, said Park’s death was “shocking and regretful”, recalling him as an old friend with whom he fought for democracy during a dictatorship in the 1980s.

The Seoul mayor since 2011, Park was instrumental in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. As a lawyer in the 1990s, he won one of South Korea’s earliest cases on sexual harassment, and strongly advocated for the cause of “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels before and during the second world war.

Park also praised women for their courage after a number of powerful politicians and policymakers were accused of sexual wrongdoing during the #MeToo movement in 2018.

The Guardian


The article, predictably, made comparisons between Park and former president Roh. If I track the party development in SK correctly they were of the same camp, and so is Moon Jae-in, the current president.

Still, if the harassment was factual, I am not happy of Mayor Park's actions. It's so unfair to his victim.
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The Seoul mayor since 2011, Park was instrumental in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. As a lawyer in the 1990s, he won one of South Korea’s earliest cases on sexual harassment, and strongly advocated for the cause of “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels before and during the second world war.


As a lawyer, he had fought to further the cause of women, winning the country's first sexual harassment case. Park must have been too embarrassed to live after being exposed as a sexual predator. His case is an example of South Korea's duplicity on human rights issues. Last month, a prominent women's rights group for former comfort women was exposed as a scam, exploiting these victims for donations that had been mostly used for the group leader's personal expenses. Sohn Young-mi, who ran a comfort women's shelter, was also found dead. Tens of thousands of dollars were taken out of the group's funds and sent to Sohn Young-mi.

South Korean families of former comfort women who took part in the rallies of an organization accused of misappropriating funds say their relatives were forced to serve as "panhandlers" for the group.

Hwang Sun-hee, the son of Gil Won-ok, who was raped by Japanese soldiers at a wartime comfort station in Harbin, Manchuria, said Thursday that Yoon Mi-hyang, founder of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance and a lawmaker with Seoul's ruling Democratic Party, used his mother to turn a profit, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported.

"The families of [former comfort women] will take this matter into our own hands, such that we are no longer pushed around by other organizations," Hwang said.

Hwang told reporters the families have started their own committee to represent the interests of victims. The Korean Council has claimed its work is vital to the women, even after some of the women have come forward to accuse Yoon of financial misconduct.

Hwang said the activism, as well as obtaining an apology from the Japanese government, are important activities. But he also suggested addressing the misappropriation allegations should take priority.

"The victims are all old and sick and there are only a few survivors left," he said. "Judgment is needed on the embezzlement of funds that should have gone" to the victims.

Hwang also thanked Lee Yong-soo, a former comfort woman who first drew attention to Yoon's alleged misconduct in May. Yoon has said Lee is lying and has refused to resign from parliament.

According to Hwang and the others, tens of thousands of dollars were taken out and sent to Sohn Young-mi, the head of Peaceful Our Home, a comfort women's shelter, and a Yoon associate.

Sohn was recently found dead in her home. Local authorities ruled the death a suicide.

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