Seoul: The funeral service for Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, who took his own life after being accused of sexual harassment, was held despite a petition against the city-run ceremony signed by half a million people.
Former human rights lawyer Park was a heavyweight figure in the ruling Democratic party and ran South Korea’s sprawling capital – home to almost a fifth of the country’s population – for nearly a decade.
He was found dead on a mountain on Friday, a day after his former secretary filed a police complaint against him that is widely reported to involve sexual harassment.
Despite the controversy over his death, the Seoul City government organised a five-day funeral for Park – two days longer than the normal Korean ritual, which begins on the day of death – and set up a memorial altar outside City Hall.
More than 20,000 people came to pay their respects during the mourning period, and at the service yesterday his daughter said: “I could feel my father’s joy as I met the citizens one by one.”
But an online petition on the presidential website opposing the ceremony garnered more than 500,000 signatures.
“Does the public have to watch the fancy five-day funeral of a powerful politician who took his own life over sexual harassment allegations?” the petition asked.
“What kind of message is this trying to send?”
A long-standing advocate of women’s rights, Park is by far the most high-profile politician to be implicated in a harassment case in South Korea, a highly patriarchal society that has seen a widespread #MeToo movement in the last two years.
A lawyer for Park’s ex-secretary told reporters that she had suffered various forms of sexual harassment by the mayor – including receiving obscene late-night text messages and underwear selfies – during the four years she worked for him.
He would call her to his bedroom next to his office and ask her to “hug him” and on one occasion put his lips to her bruised knee “to kiss it better”, she added.
“I should have screamed, cried out loud and reported it at the very first time, ” said the victim, who maintained her anonymity.
Park’s death means the investigation into the case will automatically be closed and his supporters have sought to identify the complainant, blaming her for his death.
Activists called for Seoul city to mount its own investigation. — AFP
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