Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul and a potential South Korean presidential contender, was found dead at Mt. Bugak in northern Seoul at around midnight, some seven hours after he was reported missing by his daughter, police confirmed in a press briefing in the wee hours of Friday morning.
Police are still checking CCTV footage to determine Park’s route from the City Hall to the place where his body was found, as well as the official cause of death, though signs currently indicate that he took his own life.
“There is no sign of murder for now, but we need to investigate it further,” said Choi Ik-su, a senior detective with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
Park’s bag, phone, business cards, water bottle, and pens were found along with his body. The Seoul City government also released what appears to be a handwritten suicide note.
“I’m sorry for everyone,” the note reads. “I thank everyone who has been with me in my life. I’m sorry for my family who I only have caused pain. Please cremate my body and sprinkle it on my parents’ grave. Goodbye, everyone.”
Police revealed that one day before Park’s disappearance, he had been the subject of a sexual harassment complaint filed by a former Seoul city employee. However, there is no confirmation as yet that the complaint was related to Park’s death, and police did not elaborate on the details of the case in their briefing.
As the 64-year-old was found dead, the harassment case is expected to be terminated in accordance with South Korean law.
The city’s longest serving mayor and a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, Park was often mentioned as a leading candidate to succeed current President Moon Jae-in in the 2022 presidential election.
The former social activist and human rights lawyer has been mayor of Seoul since 2011 after being reelected twice in 2014 and 2018. Park has also been leading the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, emphasizing the importance of social distancing.
The city government said that it plans to hold an official mayoral funeral for Park, the first in history, and to set up memorial altars for citizens.
Park was first reported missing on Thursday, sparking a massive search. According to police, Park’s daughter filed a report saying that her father had left a “will-like” message behind, and hadn’t been reachable as his mobile phone was turned off.
The last place the 64-year-old mayor’s phone signal was detected was around the Gilsangsa temple located in northern Seoul. Some 770 police officers and rescue workers searched for him in the area using drones and dogs.
Police said a rescue dog found the body first, with rescue workers then verifying it was Park.
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