Mayor dies after harassment allegation
The mayor of South Korea's capital, and a frontrunner to become the country's next president, has been found dead following an alleged sexual harassment complaint being filed against him.
Park Won-soon was found dead on Friday in a mountainous area of northern Seoul following a police search.
The 64-year-old's body was brought down a path in the early hours of Friday morning, an AFP journalist on site saw.
His body was then taken to a hospital where a woman wailed as they arrived.
Seoul's outspoken mayor, long seen as a potential South Korean presidential candidate, was found dead on Friday, police confirmed. He was 64.
A former Seoul City employee filed a police complaint - allegedly involving sexual harassment - against him on Wednesday.
On Thursday afternoon, Park's daughter reported him missing, saying her father had been unreachable for several hours, police said.
He left a message that sounded like "last words" and his phone had been turned off, she told police. Other reports said the message sounded "like a will".
Police said no suicide note was found at the scene, but Yonhap news agency reported that he was "presumed to have taken his own life".
If it is proven Park killed himself, he would be the highest-profile South Korean politician to do so since former president Roh Moo-hyun, who committed suicide in 2009 after being questioned over corruption allegations involving family members.
A heavyweight figure in the ruling centre-left Democratic party, Park ran South Korea's sprawling capital - home to almost a fifth of the national population - for nearly a decade.
He was consistently spoken of as a potential candidate in the race to succeed President Moon Jae-in, and did not deny ambitions on that front when asked by AFP earlier this year.
Park was a student activist in the days of South Korea's military dictatorship and later a human rights lawyer.
After completing his studies, Park went into law and defended many political activists in the 1980s and 1990s.
He helped launch the Beautiful Foundation - a philanthropic group that promotes volunteerism and community service - in the hopes of giving people the ability "to feel wonderful and beautiful" by donating to its cause.
Bespectacled and soft-featured, Park was considered a political novice when he first entered the Seoul mayoral race as an independent candidate in 2011 but he defeated Na Kyung-won, the most prominent female politician for the then ruling conservative party.
He subsequently joined the Democratic party and made a name for himself as a three-term mayor of the South Korean capital, his final victory coming in a 2018 landslide when he took more than 50 per cent of the vote.
On his official Twitter account, Park introduced himself as a "social designer", saying: "These days, I … dream of creating Seoul that puts the people first. Please join me in this dream." But he also earned a reputation as a workaholic boss, with reports saying a handful of civil servants at the Seoul city government had committed suicide due to work-related stress under him.
Earlier this week he courted controversy by being one of several senior Democratic party politicians to attend the funeral of the mother of Ahn Hee-jung, a former provincial governor convicted of sexual offences last year.
- with AFP
Originally published as Missing mayor found dead