The mayor of Seoul, a contender to be South Korean subsequent president and a former human rights lawyer, took his personal life a day after he was accused of s.e.xual harassment, authorities stated Friday.
Park Gained-soon, whose physique was recovered on a mountain within the capital, is by far probably the most high-profile politician to be implicated in a harassment case in South Korea, a extremely patriarchal society the place the #MeToo motion has led to the autumn of scores of outstanding males in a number of fields.
Park supplied a common apology in a suicide observe — handwritten with ink and brush — discovered at his official residence and launched by metropolis authorities.
“I’m sorry to everybody. I thank everybody who has been with me in my life,” he wrote, asking to be cremated and his ashes scattered at his dad and mom’ graves. “I’m sorry to my household, to whom I solely precipitated ache.”
“Bye everybody,” he signed off, with out referring to the allegations in opposition to him.
A heavyweight determine within the ruling centre-left Democratic celebration, Park ran South Korea’s sprawling capital — house to virtually a fifth of the nationwide inhabitants — for practically a decade.
He received three elections whereas selling gender and social equality, and didn’t shrink back from expressing his ambitions to exchange incumbent President Moon Jae-in in 2022.
His loss of life got here a day after his former secretary filed a police criticism stated to contain s.e.xual harassment in opposition to him.
Based on a doc purporting to be the assertion of Park’s sufferer, who labored as his private secretary from 2015, he dedicated “s.e.xual harassment and inappropriate gestures throughout work hours”, together with insisting she hug him within the bed room adjoining his workplace.
After work, she stated, he despatched her “selfies of himself in his underwear and lewd feedback” on a messenger app.
“I brainwashed myself, bearing great worry and humiliation, that every one of this was within the curiosity of Seoul Metropolis, myself, and mayor Park,” she stated, in line with the doc.
The police confirmed a criticism had been filed however declined to substantiate the main points.
Park’s loss of life means the investigation will robotically be closed.
South Korea stays male-dominated regardless of its financial and technological advances, however the nation has seen a widespread #MeToo motion within the final two years, sparked by a prosecutor who publicly accused a superior of groping her at a funeral.
The perpetrators have included a former provincial governor who sought the presidency in 2017 however was jailed final 12 months for s.e.xual intercourse by abuse of authority after his feminine assistant accused him of repeatedly raping her.
Park is the nation’s highest-profile politician to die by his personal hand since former president Roh Moo-hyun, who jumped off a cliff in 2009 after being questioned over corruption allegations involving relations.
– Jailhouse to courthouse –
Park was a scholar activist within the days of South Korea’s navy dictatorship he was jailed for participating in a rally in opposition to then-president Park Chung-hee and later grew to become a human rights lawyer.
He defended many political activists and within the 1990s received South Korea’s first s.e.xual harassment conviction, in a landmark judgement.
He helped launch the Individuals’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, an influential NGO pushing to reform the conglomerates that dominate South Korean enterprise.
Park additionally based the Lovely Basis a philanthropic group that promotes volunteerism and neighborhood service.
It grew into one of many largest non-profit organisations in South Korea and launched the Lovely Shops, a sequence of charity outlets modelled after Britain’s Oxfam outlets.
Reactions have been combined on Friday, together with each condolences and criticism that he killed himself to keep away from punishment.
There was an outpouring of grief from his supporters, a few of whom wailed at Seoul Nationwide College Hospital as his physique was introduced in.
“Mayor Park, you have been a wonderful politician,” one poster wrote on Daum, the nation’s second-largest portal website.
“However a accident put an finish to your journey. I hope you might be comfy in heaven.”
Others have been extra vital of the 64-year-old, accusing him of exploiting his energy to harass a subordinate after which taking his personal life to “keep away from the fallout”.
“The sufferer should have had painful instances within the run-up to the submitting of the criticism,” wrote one person. “I hope Park displays on his misdeeds and atones within the afterlife.”
A memorial altar was to be arrange in entrance of the Seoul metropolis corridor for residents to pay respects.