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Thu 09 July 2020:

The mayor of South Korea’s capital, Seoul, was missing Thursday after leaving a message that his daughter described as sounding like a will, police said. A massive search was underway.

Police officers said they were looking for Park at a small hill at Sungbuk-dong, a district in northern Seoul where his mobile phone signal was last detected. They said his 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 four to five hours earlier, The Associated Press news agency reported.

The daughter did not 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 could not reach her father on the phone, the officer said, requesting anonymity because she was not authorised to speak to media on the matter.

About 150 officers, a drone and a police dog have been mobilised, 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 cancelled 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. In June last year, he became the city’s first mayor to be voted into a third term. 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 colours as mayor, criticising what he described as the country’s growing social and economic inequalities, and the traditionally corrupt ties between large businesses and politicians.

Seoul, a city of 10 million people, has been a new center of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea since the 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 in Seoul.

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