The mayor of South Korea’s capital has gone missing after his daughter reported he gave her a message that sounded “will-like.”
A large-scale search is now underway for Mayor Park Won-soon, who disappeared amid sexual harassment claims and whose phone appears to have been turned off, The Associated Press reported. Police said they were looking for Mayor Park Won-soon in wooded hills stretching across northern Seoul “where his cellphone signal was last detected,” the outlet reported. A Seoul police officer told reporters that a security camera last caught Park at 10:53 a.m. Thursday heading into the hills – hours before his daughter called police.
Park’s daughter reportedly called police Thursday afternoon after her father spoke to her before leaving their home. She claimed his last words to her sounded like a will, but wouldn’t elaborate further, the AP reported.
“Kim Ji-hyeong, a Seoul Metropolitan Government official, said Park did not come to work on Thursday for unspecified reasons and had canceled all of his schedule, including a meeting with a presidential official at his Seoul City Hall office,” the AP reported. “The reason for Park’s disappearance wasn’t clear. The Seoul-based SBS television network reported that one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday night over alleged sexual harassment such as unwanted physical contact that began in 2017. The SBS report, which didn’t cite any source, said the secretary told police investigators that an unspecified number of other female employees at Seoul City Hall had suffered similar sexual harassment by Park.”
Police told the AP they could not confirm the sexual harassment reports.
“About 600 police and fire officers using drones searched unsuccessfully for hours Thursday evening. Fire officer Jeong Jin-hyang said rescuers were using dogs to search dangerous areas on the hills, and helicopters would be deployed Friday morning if Park were not found overnight,” the outlet reported.
Park was a civic activist and human rights lawyer and member of the liberal Democratic Party, just as South Korean President Moon Jae-in. He had long been considered as a possible presidential candidate in 2022, the AP reported. Park was elected as Seoul’s mayor in 2011 and became the first mayor to be elected to a third term.
“Park has mostly maintained his activist colors as mayor, criticizing what he described as the country’s growing social and economic inequalities and corrupt ties between large businesses and politicians,” the AP reported. “As a lawyer, he was credited for winning the country’s first sexual harassment conviction. He has also been 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.”
The AP also reported that Park had worked to stop the spread of the coronavirus in his city of 10 million people, which became the center of the virus outbreak in South Korea after restrictions were lifted in May.
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