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Park's public funeral takes place amid lingering controversy

Park Won-soon's ashes are carried to a bus after cremation in Seoul, Monday. The ashes were scattered in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, where his parents are buried. /Yonhap
Park Won-soon's ashes are carried to a bus after cremation in Seoul, Monday. The ashes were scattered in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, where his parents are buried. /Yonhap

By Kim Se-jeong

Friends, family and supporters gathered Monday to say goodbye to former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, a human rights lawyer who was regarded as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election.

Park was found dead early Friday morning on Mount Bugak in central Seoul, a few days after his secretary filed a sexual harassment complaint. In a handwritten note, he said sorry to everyone.

A vehicle carrying his coffin arrived at the Seoul City Hall building in downtown Seoul at 8:30 a.m., Monday. About 200 of his supporters gathered outside, with another 100 attending the service which was livestreamed online.

"I can't believe I am at his funeral service," Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Chairman Lee Hae-chan said. "My heart is wrenching. Park, as I know, was a very driven man. He pioneered the civic movement in Korea. I can't be sadder and sorrier that he ended life this way. My dear old friend, you did a great job…I hope you rest in peace."

Acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup said City Hall is "where Park who cherished communication as the highest virtue had met with residents."

After an almost hour-long service, his body was transported to be cremated and his ashes were then sent to Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, where his parents are buried.

Park left Korea divided and triggered a debate about its "patriarchal" society.

The public funeral service drew criticism from women and even from some pro-Park supporters, who criticized the service organizer for honoring an alleged sexual harassment perpetrator and bringing disgrace upon the victim. More than 500,000 people had endorsed a petition asking the government to not allow a public funeral service.

Some of the mayor's supporters circulated personal information about the victim, some of which was false, in an attempt to demonize her.

"The problem here is that each side claims its righteousness and regards the other as wrong. Those who stand with the victim view those who mourn for Park's death as perpetrators, while those who stand with the late Park view the other with a sense of disdain," Cho Hee-yeon, Seoul city's chief educator who is also a former colleague of Park, said in a contribution to a local newspaper.

An old problem involving the ex-mayor's son, Ju-shin, has also resurfaced.

The son has remained outside Korea since 2012 after allegations surfaced that that he had been sent home early from compulsory military service with the help of his powerful father. He returned to Korea last weekend and a conservative group and a lawmaker demanded a statement from him.

A high court in Seoul is currently reviewing the case.

In 2011, he was sent home only three days into his military service at the Korean Air Force after being diagnosed with a medical condition. The conservative group claimed the medical report was faked.


Park Won-soon's ashes are carried to a bus after cremation in Seoul, Monday. The ashes were scattered in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, where his parents are buried. /Yonhap
Park Won-soon's ashes are carried to a bus after cremation in Seoul, Monday. The ashes were scattered in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, where his parents are buried. /Yonhap

By Kim Se-jeong

Friends, family and supporters gathered Monday to say goodbye to former Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, a human rights lawyer who was regarded as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election.

Park was found dead early Friday morning on Mount Bugak in central Seoul, a few days after his secretary filed a sexual harassment complaint. In a handwritten note, he said sorry to everyone.

A vehicle carrying his coffin arrived at the Seoul City Hall building in downtown Seoul at 8:30 a.m., Monday. About 200 of his supporters gathered outside, with another 100 attending the service which was livestreamed online.

"I can't believe I am at his funeral service," Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Chairman Lee Hae-chan said. "My heart is wrenching. Park, as I know, was a very driven man. He pioneered the civic movement in Korea. I can't be sadder and sorrier that he ended life this way. My dear old friend, you did a great job…I hope you rest in peace."

Acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jeong-hyup said City Hall is "where Park who cherished communication as the highest virtue had met with residents."

After an almost hour-long service, his body was transported to be cremated and his ashes were then sent to Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, where his parents are buried.

Park left Korea divided and triggered a debate about its "patriarchal" society.

The public funeral service drew criticism from women and even from some pro-Park supporters, who criticized the service organizer for honoring an alleged sexual harassment perpetrator and bringing disgrace upon the victim. More than 500,000 people had endorsed a petition asking the government to not allow a public funeral service.

Some of the mayor's supporters circulated personal information about the victim, some of which was false, in an attempt to demonize her.

"The problem here is that each side claims its righteousness and regards the other as wrong. Those who stand with the victim view those who mourn for Park's death as perpetrators, while those who stand with the late Park view the other with a sense of disdain," Cho Hee-yeon, Seoul city's chief educator who is also a former colleague of Park, said in a contribution to a local newspaper.

An old problem involving the ex-mayor's son, Ju-shin, has also resurfaced.

The son has remained outside Korea since 2012 after allegations surfaced that that he had been sent home early from compulsory military service with the help of his powerful father. He returned to Korea last weekend and a conservative group and a lawmaker demanded a statement from him.

A high court in Seoul is currently reviewing the case.

In 2011, he was sent home only three days into his military service at the Korean Air Force after being diagnosed with a medical condition. The conservative group claimed the medical report was faked.


Kim Se-jeong skim@koreatimes.co.kr

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