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Thousands mourn death of Seoul mayor

(Park Han-na/The Korea Herald)
(Park Han-na/The Korea Herald)

Thousands of mourners filled a grassy plaza outside City Hall on Saturday to pay their respect to Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, who was found dead Friday.

Citizens of all ages waited in a long line that snaked around the plaza to pay condolence calls to the memorial altar set up in front of the building. 

City officials checked mourners’ temperatures before allowing them to join the line, and instructed them to maintain a one-meter distance from others in a precautionary measure against the coronavirus. Visitors were also required to write down their names, addresses and phone numbers. 

According to the Seoul Metropolitan City Government, some 2,210 people visited the makeshift altar as of 2:30 p.m. 

The official funeral site is Seoul National University Hospital, where 3,441 people visited as of 10:30 p.m. Friday. 

People vowed their heads and laid white chrysanthemums in front of Park’s portrait in the altar, which was set up in a frugal way upon the bereaved family’s request. 

“The mayor’s death will remain a big loss for the politics and Seoul,” Hong Nam-ju, 71, who was making his second visit to the mourning site in an hour before heading home in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.

“He was one of my favorite politicians. He pushed for policies that he believed in and people liked the outcomes of his initiatives.”

Park was a renowned civil activist and human rights lawyer who promoted rights of women and laborers before being elected Seoul mayor in 2011. 

But his integrity has been questioned following police confirmation that shortly before his death, one of his former secretaries had filed a claim against him. The nature of the offense has not been disclosed by police, but is reportedly sexual in nature. 

Police who examined the body said Park appeared to have killed himself.  

“He did great things as a mayor and a human rights lawyer. He was an uncorrupted man. Those who had bigger faults (than Park) are quite well off,” Jang Ki-soon, 80, who was standing in the line said. 

A mourner in his mid-20’s, who refused to disclose his name, said he had questions about the allegation against him but came to deplore his death.

The city hall memorial will be open for visitors until 10 p.m. Monday. 

By Park Han-na (