News ID: 271447
Published: 1019 GMT July 13, 2020

Anger at use of public funds for Seoul mayor's five-day funeral

Anger at use of public funds for Seoul mayor's five-day funeral

Mourners attend the funeral service in South Korea of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on July 13, 2020.

The South Korean capital’s administrative court dismissed an 11th-hour injunction to block the use of taxpayer funds for the funeral on Monday morning of Park Won-soon, whose body was found in mountain woods in Seoul on Friday, the Guardian reported.

While many South Koreans voiced shock at Park’s death, more than 500,000 people signed a petition calling on the country’s presidential Blue House not to use public money for the service.

“Holding a quiet, family funeral would be the proper thing to do,” the petition said.

Park’s former secretary filed a police complaint against him on Wednesday. His death means the investigation into the case will automatically be closed.

The funeral service was streamed online on Monday morning due to COVID-19 fears. About 100 members of Park’s family, along with friends, city officials and politicians attended the service at Seoul City Hall.

Despite the controversy over his death, the Seoul city government organized a five-day funeral for Park — two days longer than the normal Korean ritual, which begins on the day of death — and set up a memorial altar outside City Hall.

More than 20,000 people paid their respects during the mourning period, with Park’s daughter telling mourners on Monday, “I could feel my father’s joy as I met the citizens one by one.”

As the representative of Seoul’s 10 million residents, Park – a member of the center-left governing Democratic Party of President Moon Jae-in — was considered the second most powerful politician in the country.

The 64-year-old former human rights lawyer championed liberal causes, including gender equality, and provided affordable housing for single working women during his decade in office.

He was widely considered a leading liberal candidate for president when Moon’s single five-year term ends in 2022, but his legacy risks being tainted by the allegations against him.

Opposition politicians had joined calls for Park to be cremated at a quiet family ceremony, saying the state-funded rites, which ended on Monday, was inappropriate in light of the allegations.

Ahn Cheol-soo, the head of the People’s Party, wrote of his sadness on hearing of Park’s death but added that he had decided not to personally offer his condolences. Instead of paying for Park’s funeral, the city government should examine the behavior of senior public servants, Ahn wrote on his Facebook page.

Although police have yet to give a cause of death, Park reportedly left a note in his office that said, “I’m sorry to everyone. I thank everyone who has been with me in my life. I’m sorry to my family, to whom I have only caused pain.”

The circumstances surrounding Park’s death are expected to fuel further debate about the treatment of women in South Korea.

Park is one of several senior politicians to face accusations of sexual misconduct in South Korea, a male-dominated society that became the center of Asia’s #MeToo movement in 2018.

“Almost all South Korean men, whether they are politically conservative or liberal, are very traditional and patriarchal when it comes to gender issues,” Lee Soo-yeon, a researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute in Seoul, told AFP.



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