Masked mourners gave speeches and laid flowers in front of the coffin of Seoul’s mayor during his funeral on Monday, while a live broadcast online drew a mixture of condolence messages and insults.
Since Park Won-soon was found dead in a wooded area in northern Seoul on Friday, the South Korean public have been sharply split over how to commemorate his death due to media reports that one of his secretaries had lodged a complaint with police alleging sexual harassment.
Police have confirmed that a complaint against Mr Park had been filed but have not given any details.
The reports have nevertheless tarnished the image of Mr Park, a liberal who built his career as a reform-minded politician and a champion of women’s rights. He was considered as a potential candidate to run for president in 2022.
The funeral committee had reportedly planned to hold a large-scale outdoor memorial near Seoul City Hall. But more than 561,000 people signed a petition opposing such a funeral and calling for a quiet family funeral.
In the end authorities allowed only about 100 people to attend Monday’s funeral at City Hall and asked others to watch it on YouTube.
The ceremony began with silent tributes and a video on Mr Park’s life.
Masked orchestra members, all clad in black, played Bach’s Air On The G String, before co-leaders of the funeral committee, including ruling Democratic Party chief Lee Hae-chan, made speeches.
The mayor’s daughter, Park Da-in, wept when she said she felt both sorry and grateful to city officials whom she said must have been more shocked than anyone by her father’s death.
“Thanks to them, our family is overcoming the difficult times little by little,” she said.
A stream of sympathy messages was posted online during the live broadcast, including ones that read “Please, rest in peace”, “I’m heartbroken” and “You’re the best mayor”.
But as the funeral continued, his critics also left messages such as “Shame on you”, “Hypocrite” and “What are you doing with taxpayers’ money?”
The funeral ended after Mr Park’s family and others deeply bowed and laid white flowers before a floral coffin topped with his framed funeral photo.
When the coffin was moved out of the building for a cremation and burial later, some of his supporters cried and shouted “Mr Mayor! Mr Mayor” and “We love you”.