Seoul Mayor Park Found Dead, Police Say

July 9, 2020 Updated: July 9, 2020

The mayor of the South Korean capital Seoul has been found dead, hours after he was reported missing, police said.

Park Won-soon was reported missing by his family in the evening on July 9, local time, according to officials. He was found dead in the hills in northern Seoul, authorities on July 10 told the official Yonhap News Agency.

Park’s daughter had told police her father’s cellphone was turned off after leaving their home. He also left a message that sounded like a will; other details about his death weren’t provided.

Park, a 64-year-old civic activist who had been Seoul’s mayor since 2011, was seen as a possible presidential candidate in the 2022 elections. As a lawyer, he was credited with winning the country’s first sexual harassment conviction. He also was an outspoken critic of Japan’s colonial-era policies toward Korea, including the mobilization of Korean and other women as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.

Reports from South Korean news outlets claimed that one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint earlier this week with officials about an alleged sexual harassment incident. The person, who was described as “Ms. A” in a report from SBS News, asserted that the harassment started in 2017, when she began working for Park.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and Park’s office have both told news outlets that they couldn’t confirm the reports.

MBC television reported on a similar allegation.

Park’s daughter called police on July 9 and said her father had given her “a will-like” verbal message before leaving their home hours earlier. The daughter didn’t explain the contents of the message, according to an officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, which was responsible for the search operation.

Park didn’t come to work on July 9 for reasons that weren’t specified, and he had canceled his entire schedule, including a meeting with a presidential official at his Seoul City Hall office.

He was last identified by a security camera at 10:53 a.m. at the entrance to the hills, more than six hours before his daughter called police to report him missing, police officer Lee Byeong-seok told reporters.

About 600 police and fire officers using drones took part in the search.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.