Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, was found dead by authorities hours after he went missing Thursday, Korean media reported.
He was 64.
His body was found past midnight on July 10 (July 9 in the Philippines) at Mount Bukak in Seoul. His death was an apparent case of suicide, Yonhap News reported.
His daughter filed a report with the police about his disappearance at about 5:17 p.m. local time on July 9, saying he “left home four to five hours ago after leaving words like a will, with his phone currently off,” the news agency added.
A day before Park’s disappearance, his former secretary, who started working for him in 2017, went to the police to file a complaint of sexual assault against him for unwanted physical contact.
Park was born on March 26, 1956 in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. He was accepted as a law student at the prestigious Seoul National University.
However, at age 19 during his freshman year, he joined a demonstration against the regime of President Park Chunghee, father of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and is now in prison for corruption scandal. He was jailed for four months resulting in his expulsion from the university.
In 1982, he served as district attorney at Daegu District Prosecutor’s Office, and earned an International Law diploma from the London School of Economics in 1991. He became the executive director of The Beautiful Foundation from 2002 to 2010.
He was first elected as mayor of Seoul in 2011 and was reelected to the position in 2014 and 2018, his last term.
In 2006, Park received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service for “his principled activism fostering social justice, fair business practices, clean government, and a generous spirit in South Korea’s young democracy,” according to the award’s website.
According to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation website, in 1994, “he gave up his law practice to co-found the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), a grassroots crusade against corrupt public officials.”
He then founded the Beautiful Foundation, with the aim of rekindling “Korean habits of generosity and to popularize philanthropy.”
In accepting the award, Park said, “I always thought that good work could not be achieved by one person but by a group of people who share a common dream and common goals. This award is a result of not only my work but the work we have done together to make a better world. There are people who really care about our society, people who dream about a new alternative world with all of their being, and people who are willing to be members and contribute money for a common cause and the public interest.”
He added, “The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and The Beautiful Foundation have both played an important role in Korean society and have changed the lives of Korean people. We have walked the path of democratization and humanization in the face of military dictatorship in much the same way as the Filipino people have. We have all come a long way.”
“I deeply appreciate this award and extend my blessing to the President of the Magsaysay Award Foundation, its trustees, and all you distinguished attendants. Today, I regard this most honorable Magsaysay Award as a constant reminder for me to be more diligent and consistent in my political journey with all of my friends — friends just like you,” he said.
Park is survived by his wife Kang Nang-hee and children Park Da-in and Park Ju-sin. He will be replaced by Seo Jeong-hyup, the first vice mayor for administrative affairs. He will be the acting mayor until a new election is held in April, 2021, according to Korean media.