Seoul to launch investigation into allegations against late mayor

Seoul to launch investigation into allegations against late mayor
South Korea Seoul Mayor Funeral

The city government of the South Korean capital Seoul will launch an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct surrounding late Mayor Park Won-soon.

He was found dead after one of his former secretaries filed a complaint claiming years-long abuse.

City spokesman Hwang In-sik said the investigation committee will also include civic activists and experts but did not specify when it would start or how much power it would have.

Hwang In-sik speaks to the media at Seoul City Hall (Lee Jin-man/AP)

“By forming a joint investigation committee of government officials and civic experts, we will ensure fairness and objectiveness of the investigation,” he said at the news conference at City Hall.

“We will discuss with women’s rights organisations and other groups to determine how the committee will be formed and operated and when it could start.”

Mr Hwang lamented what he described as “speculative” media reports but avoided specific answers when asked about the city’s response to the allegations or Mr Park’s death, including whether city officials had ignored earlier complaints by the ex-secretary.

He also did not say clearly whether the city will push for legal charges against employees if the committee concludes they possibly condoned or overlooked sexually abusive behaviour by Mr Park.

Police officers carry the body of Park Won-soon (Ryu Young-suck/Yonhap/AP)

Rescue workers found Mr Park’s body in a wooden area in northern Seoul early on Friday, following a huge search that involved hundreds of officers, dogs and drones after his daughter reported him missing.

On Monday, lawyer Kim Jae-ryon told reporters she gave legal counsel to one of Mr Park’s former secretaries before a complaint was lodged with police on July 8 alleging sexual harassment.

According to Ms Kim, the ex-secretary said Mr Park subjected her to unwanted sexual advances and physical contact for years and sent her “lewd” photos and text messages that she showed to some of her friends, colleagues and a journalist.

The allegations have tarnished the reputation of Mr Park, a liberal who built his career as a reform-minded politician and a champion of women’s rights.

He had been considered a potential presidential candidate for President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party for the elections in 2022.

Mr Moon’s office, which has not specifically commented on the suspicions surrounding Mr Park, said it will “calmly wait” for the outcome of the committee’s investigation.

Police said there was no sign of foul play at the scene where Mr Park’s body was found but have so far refused to confirm the exact cause of his death.

Seoul officials have said he left a note saying “I feel sorry to everyone” and asking his body be cremated.

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