(Reposted from BBC World News)
The mayor of South Korean capital Seoul has been reported missing and a search is under way, police in the city said on Thursday.
Police said they were looking for Park Won-soon in a hilly wooded area in the north of the city, where his mobile phone signal was last detected. They said Mr Park’s mobile phone was currently turned off. His daughter reportedly told police he had left a message before leaving the house, leading her to raise the alarm.
He did not show up for work on Thursday, cancelling a meeting with a presidential official at his Seoul City Hall office, Kim Ji-hyeong, an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, told the Associated Press.
Police officer Lee Byeong-seok told reporters that Park was seen by a security camera at 10:53 near the entrance to the wooded area where he phone signal was last detected. About 600 police and fire officers using drones and dogs searched the area for hours on Thursday.
Meanwhile, crowds gathered outside the Seoul National University hospital late on Thursday amid unconfirmed reports that Mr Park had been found and taken there.
Unconfirmed reports on Thursday suggested Mr Park was facing a sexual harassment claim filed by a female employee in the hours before he went missing, but police did not confirm the reports.
Mr Park was elected mayor of Seoul in 2011 and elected to his third and final term in June of last year. As member of President Moon Jae-in’s liberal Democratic Party, Mr Park was reportedly under consideration as a potential presidential hopeful in the 2022 elections.
With his re-election last year, Mr Park became the first mayor of the city to begin a third term. He had carried his history as a civic activist and human rights lawyer into his tenure as mayor, and was an outspoken critic of social inequality and corruption in South Korea.
As a lawyer, he was credited with securing the country’s first sexual harassment conviction. He clashed with the former president, Park Geun-hye, openly supporting millions of people who protested against her in 2017 and 2017, before she was eventually charged and imprisoned, on bribery and other charges.