Online funeral to be held for Seoul mayor amid COVID-19 pandemic

The official funeral for Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon will be held online this week over coronavirus concerns, his funeral committee said Sunday.

The announcement comes amid a heated social debate over how big a funeral should be arranged for Park, who was found dead on Friday. He reportedly had been embroiled in sexual harassment allegations.

Lawmaker Park Hong-keun, who works for the interim funeral committee, told reporters that the online funeral will be held inside Seoul City Hall on Monday morning. He said the committee aimed to support a government-led anti-virus campaign and hold a “humble” funeral.

Read more: Seoul mayor: Questions surround sudden death as sympathy pours in

The lawmaker said about 100 people, including the bereaved family, are expected to attend the funeral, which will be broadcast live on YouTube. He said the funeral will include silent tributes, the laying of florals, video featuring the mayor and commemorative speeches.

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Park Hong-keun said that as of 1 a.m. Sunday, around 18,000 people had paid their respects to the mayor at two mourning sites in Seoul, one at a hospital and the other at a plaza near City Hall. About 922,000 people had condoled the mayor’s death at a city-run online mourning site as of Sunday afternoon.

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While the death has caused an outpouring of sympathy, many South Koreans have demanded that authorities investigate the reported allegations against Park and voiced opposition to a large-scale funeral paid for with taxpayer money.

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A petition filed with the presidential office opposing such a funeral had garnered more than 535,000 signatures as of Sunday afternoon. “Holding a quiet, family funeral should be proper,” the petition says.

Seoul city officials said Monday’s online funeral would be an official event paid for with city funds.

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Police said there was no sign of homicide when Park’s body was discovered. But they’ve refused to disclose the exact cause of his death. Seoul officials said Friday that what they described as Park’s “will” was found at his residence.

Read more: Seoul mayor found dead left note saying ‘sorry to all people,’ no mention of allegations

Police launched massive searches for Park, 64, on Thursday, after his daughter had called police and reported her father missing. While the searches were underway, South Korean media reported that one of Park’s secretaries had lodged a complaint with police on Wednesday over alleged sexual harassment.

Police later confirmed that a complaint against Park had been filed but refused to provide further details, including whether the complaint was about sexual behaviour.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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