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Condolences and insults as Seoul mayor’s funeral held online

Park Won-soon was found dead on Friday, but South Korea has been over how to commemorate his death amid reports of a sex harassment claim against him.

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Bereaved family members place flowers to pay respects during the official funeral for Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at the Seoul City Hall (Korea Pool/Yonhap/AP)

Bereaved family members place flowers to pay respects during the official funeral for Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at the Seoul City Hall (Korea Pool/Yonhap/AP)

Bereaved family members place flowers to pay respects during the official funeral for Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at the Seoul City Hall (Korea Pool/Yonhap/AP)

Masked mourners gave speeches and laid flowers in front of the coffin of Seoul’s mayor during his funeral on Monday, while a live broadcast online drew a mixture of condolence messages and insults.

Since Park Won-soon was found dead in a wooded area in northern Seoul on Friday, the South Korean public have 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 Mr Park had been filed but have not given any details.

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A man carries a portrait of late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon after his official funeral outside Seoul City Hall (Lee Jin-man/AP)

A man carries a portrait of late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon after his official funeral outside Seoul City Hall (Lee Jin-man/AP)

AP/PA Images

A man carries a portrait of late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon after his official funeral outside Seoul City Hall (Lee Jin-man/AP)

The reports have nevertheless tarnished the image of Mr 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.

The 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 Monday’s funeral at City Hall and asked others to watch it on YouTube.

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About 100 people attended the funeral while maintaining social distancing at Seoul City Hall (Korea Pool/Yonhap/AP)

About 100 people attended the funeral while maintaining social distancing at Seoul City Hall (Korea Pool/Yonhap/AP)

AP/PA Images

About 100 people attended the funeral while maintaining social distancing at Seoul City Hall (Korea Pool/Yonhap/AP)

The ceremony began with silent tributes and a video on Mr Park’s life.

Masked orchestra members, all clad in black, played Bach’s 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 whom 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.

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Mourners leave after paying their respects at a memorial for late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at City Hall Plaza (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

Mourners leave after paying their respects at a memorial for late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at City Hall Plaza (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

AP/PA Images

Mourners leave after paying their respects at a memorial for late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at City Hall Plaza (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

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 Mr 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, some of his supporters cried and shouted “Mr Mayor! Mr Mayor” and “We love you”.

PA