One of South Korea’s most prominent elected officials and longtime mayor of the capital, Seoul, was found dead on Friday after his daughter reported him missing amid a criminal investigation and media reports of alleged sexual harassment.
Officers using drones and sniffer dogs found Mayor Park Won-soon’s body at Mt Bugak, in northern Seoul, shortly after midnight following a search involving hundreds of police, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said.
There was no sign of foul play and police did not give a cause of death.
The suspected suicide came after one of Park’s former secretaries filed a complaint on Wednesday alleging the 64-year-old had sexually harassed her, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Police confirmed a criminal complaint had been made against Park but did not elaborate on the nature of the allegations.
“I apologise to everyone,” Park wrote in a note left on his desk and released by the city government with the permission of his family.
“I thank everyone who was with me in my lifetime. I am so sorry to my family, to whom I have only caused pain.”
The note did not mention any allegations.
A representative of Park’s family issued a statement on their behalf saying it was time to let him go and urging people to avoid spreading “groundless statements”.
“If acts of defaming him continue irrespective of the truth, we will sternly respond with legal action,” said Moon Mi-ran, who for Many residents of Seoul, a city of nearly 10 million people, expressed shock over the sudden death of the former activist, women’s rights advocate and lawyer who many saw as a potential presidential candidate.
“I feel sorry, but apart from that there needed to be a clear explanation on the sexual harassment,” said office worker Jeon Sung-jae.
His body was taken to Seoul National University Hospital, where five days of funeral events were expected to begin.
President Moon Jae-in sent flowers to the funeral home, where a group of his aides offered condolences.