Seoul mayor’s funeral draws both condolences and insults

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Masked mourners gave speeches and laid flowers before the coffin of Seoul’s mayor during his funeral yesterday, while a live broadcast online drew a mixture of condolence messages and insults.

Since Park Won-soon was found dead on Friday in a wooded area in northern Seoul, the South Korean public has been sharply split over how to commemorate his death due to media reports that one of his secretaries had lodged a complaint with police alleging sexual harassment. Police have confirmed that a complaint against Park was filed but not given any details.

The reports have nevertheless tarnished the image of Park, a liberal who built his career as a reform-minded politician and a champion of women’s rights. He was considered as a potential candidate to run for president in 2022.

Park’s funeral committee had reportedly planned to hold a large-scale outdoor memorial near Seoul City Hall. But more than 561,000 people signed a petition opposing such a funeral and calling for a quiet family funeral.

In the end authorities allowed only about 100 people to attend yesterday’s funeral at City Hall and asked others to watch it on YouTube.

About 100 people attend an official funeral of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon while maintaining social distancing at the Seoul City Hall in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

The ceremony began with silent tributes and a video on Park’s life. Masked orchestra members, all clad in black, played Air on the G String, before co-leaders of the funeral committee, including ruling Democratic Party Chief Lee Hae-chan, made speeches.

The mayor’s daughter, Park Da-in, wept when she said she felt both sorry and grateful to city officials who she said must have been more shocked than anyone by her father’s death.

“Thanks to them, our family is overcoming the difficult times little by little,” she said.

A stream of sympathy messages was posted online during the live broadcast, including ones that read “Please, rest in peace,” “I’m heartbroken” and “You’re the best mayor.”

But as the funeral continued, his critics also left messages such as “Shame on you,” “Hypocrite” and “What are you doing with taxpayers’ money?”

The funeral ended after Park’s family and others deeply bowed and laid white flowers before a floral coffin topped with his framed funeral photo. When the coffin was moved out of the building for a cremation and burial later yesterday, some of his supporters cried and shouted “Mr Mayor! Mr Mayor” and “We love you.”