Police find body of missing Seoul mayor Park Won-soon

Seoul Metropolitan Government website handout

The mayor did not show up for work and cancelled all his scheduled meeting, according to an official from Seoul's Metropolitan Government.

Crowds gathered outside the Seoul National University hospital late on Thursday amid unconfirmed reports that Mr Park had been found and taken there.

Circumstances surrounding his disappearance and death remain unclear.

Choi said Park's phone, bag and business cards were found near his body, but there was no note or message with them.

Park also praised women for their courage after a series of women accused powerful politicians and policymakers of sexual wrongdoings amid the #MeToo movement in 2018. Around 600 police officers searched the area with dogs and drones throughout the night.

Rescuers arrive to search for missing Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 9, 2020.

Bespectacled and soft-featured, Park was considered a political novice when he first entered the Seoul mayoral race as an independent candidate in 2011 but he defeated Na Kyung-won, the most prominent female lawmaker for the then ruling conservative party.

The Yonhap news agency said a former secretary of Park had filed a complaint on Wednesday over alleged incidents of sexual harassment.

Park's body was found in the city's mountains seven hours into the operation, Seoul police confirmed in a text message early Friday to journalists.

MBC television reported on a similar allegation.

Fire officer Jeong Jin-hyang told reporters on Thursday night that rescuers used dogs to search unsafe areas on the hills. Police official Choi Ik-soo told reporters at a televised briefing at the scene there was no sign of foul play although a detailed investigation would be needed.

A veteran civic activist and human rights lawyer, he was elected to his third term as mayor of the capital a year ago. He became the city's first mayor to be voted into a third term in June previous year.

As a lawyer, he was credited with winning the country's first sexual harassment conviction.

Park Geun-hye was formally removed from office in March 2017 and is now serving a decades-long prison term on bribery and other charges. Authorities are struggling to trace contacts amid surges in cases linked to nightclubs, church services, a huge e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers in Seoul.

Park Won-soon led an aggressive anti-virus campaign, shutting down thousands of nightspots and banning rallies in major downtown streets.