seoul mayor death park won soons lavish state funeral begins as accuser says he sexually harassed her for four years - Seoul mayor death: Park Won-soon's lavish state funeral begins as accuser says he sexually harassed her for four years
seoul mayor death park won soons lavish state funeral begins as accuser says he sexually harassed her for four years 1 - Seoul mayor death: Park Won-soon's lavish state funeral begins as accuser says he sexually harassed her for four years

Mourners lined the street and wept at the funeral of Seoul’s mayor on the same day a lawyer revealed details about sexual harassment allegations against him.

The accusations against Park Won-soon have divided many in South Korea over how to remember him after he was found dead in a wooded area in the north of the country’s capital on Friday.

Mr Park, a liberal who built his career as a reform-minded politician and champion of women’s rights, had been considered a potential candidate for president in 2022.

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Police said there was no sign of foul play but refused to disclose the exact cause of his death.

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

On Monday, lawyer Kim Jae-ryun told reporters she gave legal counsel to one of Park’s former secretaries before a complaint was lodged with police over alleged sexual harassment.

Ms Kim, who represents the ex-secretary, said the complaint was filed on 8 July – the day before Mr Park’s daughter called police to report her father missing, prompting a massive police search.

The lawyer said the ex-secretary claimed Mr Park sent her messages and photos that involved “sexual harassment” and that she showed those to some of her friends, colleagues and a local journalist. The woman alleged Mr Park subjected her to unwanted “physical contact,” the lawyer added.

The alleged harassment is said to have lasted for at least four years and to have continued even after she was sent to a different department, according to Yonhap news agency.

Police and Seoul’s city government did not immediately have official responses to the lawyer’s claims and refused multiple attempts by the Associated Press to confirm details in the complaint.

Police previously confirmed a complaint against Mr Park was filed but have not given any further details.

Ms Kim’s office also refused the Associated Press’ request to contact the lawyer.

Kim Jae-ryun, a lawyer for a former secretary of the late Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, explains the alleged sexual harassment case during a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, 13 July 2020. (Yonhap/EPA)

During the news conference, an activist read what she called a message by the former secretary.

The message said: “I was foolish. I have deep regrets. Yes, I should have screamed when it first happened, cried out and reported it.”

She was quoted as saying in the message that she found the mayor’s death “deeply disappointing” and hard to believe.

The Seoul city government on Monday held a funeral for Mr Park with about 100 participants, a relatively small size given his prominence.

Authorities cited coronavirus concerns for limiting participants, but some observers say opposition to a big, outdoor funeral was likely the reason.

A mourner walks by a memorial altar for late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at City Hall Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, 13 July 2020. (Lee Jin-man/AP)

The mayor’s daughter, Park Da-in, wept at the funeral and said she felt both sorry and grateful to city officials who 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 live broadcast online drew a mixture of condolence messages and insults.

Sympathy messages included ones that read “Please, rest in peace,” “I’m heartbroken” and “You’re the best mayor.” But there were also messages such as “Shame on you,” “Hypocrite” and “What are you doing with taxpayers’ money?”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

For services local to you, the national mental health database – Hub of Hope – allows you to enter your postcode to search for organisations and charities who offer mental health advice and support in your area.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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