Seoul Mayor Missing, Search Underway 07/09 06:13

Seoul Mayor Missing, Search Underway   07/09 06:13

   

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- The mayor of South Korean capital Seoul is 
missing Thursday after leaving a verbal message that his daughter described as 
sounding like a will, police said. A massive search operation is underway for 
him.

   Police officers said they are looking for Mayor Park Won-soon at a small 
hill in Seoul's Sungbuk neighborhood where his mobile phone signal was last 
detected. They said Park's mobile phone was currently turned off.

   His daughter called police on Thursday afternoon and said her father left "a 
will-like" message before leaving their home 4-5 hours earlier. The daughter 
didn't explain the contents of the message, said one of the officers at the 
Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency who is responsible for Park's search operation.

   The daughter said she decided to call police because she couldn't reach her 
father on the phone, the officer said, requesting anonymity because she was not 
authorized to speak to media on the matter.

   About 150 officers, a drone and a police dog have have been mobilized for 
Park's search, according to police.

   Kim Ji-hyeong, an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, confirmed 
that Park did not show up for work on Thursday because of unspecified reasons 
and canceled all his schedules, including a meeting with a presidential 
official at his Seoul City Hall office.

   A longtime civic activist and human rights lawyer, Park was elected as Seoul 
mayor in 2011 and became the city's first mayor to be voted into a third term 
in June last year. A member of President Moon Jae-in's liberal Democratic 
Party, Park has been considered a potential presidential hopeful for the 
liberals in the 2022 elections.

   Park has mostly maintained his activist colors as mayor, criticizing what he 
described as the country's growing social and economic inequalities and the 
traditionally corrupt ties between large businesses and politicians.

   During the earlier part of his terms, Park established himself as a fierce 
opponent of former conservative President Park Geun-hye and openly supported 
the millions of people who flooded the city streets in late 2016 and 2017, 
calling for her ouster over a corruption scandal.

   Park Geun-hye was formally removed from office in March 2017 and is 
currently serving a decades-long prison term on bribery and other charges.

   Seoul, a city with 10 million people, has been a new epicenter of the 
coronavirus outbreak in South Korea since the Asian country eased its rigid 
social distancing rules in early May. 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.

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