Park Won-soon (Korean: 박원순; 26 March 1956 – 10 July 2020) was a South Korean politician, philanthropist, activist and lawyer who served as Mayor of Seoul from 2011 until his death in July 2020. A Democrat, he was first elected in 2011 and won re-election in 2014 and 2018.
Prior to being elected mayor, Park was a community and social justice activist. He was a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A noted political donor in Seoul, Park donated to political organizations and think tanks that advocated for grassroots solutions towards social, educational, environmental, and political issues.
1 Early life
2 Early work
3 Mayor of Seoul (2011–2020)
3.1 2011 mayoral campaign
4 Personal life
6 External links
Park was born on March 26, 1956 in Changnyeong, South Korea. He was enrolled at Kyunggi High School in 1971 and graduated in 1974.
At first, he went to earn his Bachelor of Arts at Seoul National University, however he was expelled and arrested for four months over a protest he held over the militant dictatorship of President Park Chung Hee. He later earned his Bachelor of Arts at Dankook University. He earned his diploma in International law at the London School of Economics at University of London in 1991.
He worked as a public prosecutor in the Daegu District Court in Gyeongsang Province from 1982 to 1983. Returning to Seoul from Daegu, he launched into private law practice. He worked as a human rights lawyer and defended many political activists in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1993, he became a visiting research fellow in the Human Rights Program of the School of Law in Harvard University.
In 1994, he was a principal founder of the nonprofit watchdog organization People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy which monitors government regulatory practices and fights political corruption.
In 2002, Park stepped down from PSPD to run The Beautiful Foundation, a philanthropic group that promotes volunteerism and community service and addresses issues of income inequality. Beginning in 2005, Park served as part of South Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the history of human rights violations in Korean history from Japan's rule of Korea in 1910 up until the end of Authoritarian Rule in Korea with the election of President Kim Young-sam in 1993.
In 2006, as an offshoot of The Beautiful Foundation, he founded the Hope Institute, a think tank designed to promote solutions arising from grass roots suggestions for social, educational, environmental, and political problems.
As a lawyer, he won several major cases, including South Korea’s first sexual harassment conviction. He also campaigned for the rights of comfort women.
Mayor of Seoul (2011–2020)
Park discussing the 2013 Special Winter Olympic Games
2011 mayoral campaign
Main article: 2011 South Korean by-elections § Seoul mayoral election
In the Seoul mayoral by-election on October 26, 2011, he elected as an independent candidate with the support of the Democratic Party and Democratic Labor Party. Park's victory is seen as a blow in particular to the Grand National Party and the prospective presidential candidacy of Park Geun-hye, who had publicly supported Park Won-soon's opponent Na Kyung-won, and a triumph for the independent Ahn Cheol-Soo, whose support he received.
However, the inability of the Democratic Party to present its own candidate, and Park's refusal to join it after he had received its endorsement, has served to present Park as a candidate independent of the interests of both established parties.
He once suggested a friendly soccer match and an orchestra event between South Korea and North Korea.
Park in December 2014
He praised the Japanese local self-government system during his disaster prevention training in Japan.
Early in 2012, Park was accused of illegally manipulating the army draft health checkup to have his son sent to a favorable post. However, after his son completed a public health checkup, Park and his son were declared innocent and received apologies from his accusers. Park has since said that he would forgive the accusers. In February 2012, Park joined the Democratic United Party.
On September 20, 2012, under the leadership of Park, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced its plan to promote a sharing vision through the Sharing City Seoul Project . As a consequence of the successful implementation of the plan, Park is recognized in Korea and internationally as a leader of the Sharing City concept.
On April 14, 2013, Line 9, part of the Seoul Metropolitan Subway, announced a sudden fare increase. But Park objected to the fare being raised without negotiation, and warned that if the corporation proceeded, Seoul would take over management of the corporation. Finally, Line 9 released an apology to the residents of Seoul.
On June 4, 2014, Park was elected to his second term as Mayor of Seoul.
On August 4, 2015, Park controversially referred to South Korea as a housefly that should sit on China's buttocks for economic progress.
He was a vocal critic of then-President Park Geun-hye and held huge rallies against her in central Seoul that led to her impeachment and ousting on corruption charges in 2017.
On June 13, 2018, Park was elected to his third and last term as Mayor of Seoul.
Park was married to Kang Nan-hee. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006.
On July 9, 2020, Park's daughter reported him as missing in the Seongbuk District of Seoul. He reportedly took a sick leave that day and was last seen four to five hours prior to her alerting authorities at 5:17 pm Korea Standard Time (KST). One day before his disappearance, Park was charged with a criminal count of sexual harassment. His cell phone was reported turned off and his daughter found a note described as "will like". Authorities began using search dogs and drones in the Seongbuk District. Around midnight, his body was found near Sukjeongmun in northern Seoul.
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