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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 11)

All News 09:22 July 11, 2020

Death of Seoul mayor
It is time to find ways to end tragic choices

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon was found dead in the Mount Bugak area near his official residence more than seven hours after his daughter reported him missing. His sudden death has shocked the nation because of its possible links to allegations of sexual harassment.

Police are looking into the death of the mayor; but at the same time acknowledged that a complaint by a former female secretary had been filed against Park, though they didn't specify what he was accused of. Reports however have emerged of allegations of sexual harassment.

First, we extend our sincere and deep condolence to Park's family.

In a note he left behind disclosed by the Seoul city government, Park wrote: "I am sorry to everyone. I am grateful to everyone who has been with me in my life." He expressed regret for causing nothing but pain to his family and asked to be cremated and for his ashes to be spread on his parents' graves.

Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Rep. Park Hong-geun, a close ally to the mayor, asked people to refrain from making ungrounded statements that may hurt the feelings of his remaining family members.

What should also be ensured is that the complainant does not suffer any possible secondary harm, and regarding this, a movement by some Park's supporters to unearth information about the alleged victim should be immediately halted.

Park's death is expected to close the sexual harassment complaint.

The three-term Seoul mayor was not only a potential presidential contender for the 2022 election but had a proven track record as a prominent human rights lawyer and civic movement leader.

As a human rights lawyer, he was involved in South Korea's first sexual harassment case in the 1990s, and as a vocal civic movement leader he was instrumental in establishing powerful citizens' groups.

Yet, he is also the third local government chief affiliated with the DPK to be embroiled in allegations of sexual harassment. Former Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don stepped down after admitting sexual harassment; and former South Chungcheong Province Governor An Hee-jung is serving a prison term. The persistent occurrences of such allegations and cases compel us to gravely review our awareness of the #MeToo movement.

The death of a public figure can impact society immensely. Residents of Seoul, like those in Busan, must wait till the by-elections next April to elect a new mayor. Seoul is a global metropolis, home to 10 million people or about one-fifth of the entire Korean population. These are difficult times that call on us to respect everyone involved and find ways to ensure so that such tragedies do not happen again.

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