SEOUL, South Korea – A prominent liberal South Korean politician embroiled in a corruption scandal was found dead on Monday, police said, in what appeared to be one of the country’s highest-profile suicides in recent years.
The body of three-term lawmaker Roh Hoe-chan of the small opposition Justice Party was found near a Seoul apartment building. Police said they believe Roh, 61, leapt to his death from the building after leaving a suicide note.
“Dear fellow citizens, I’m sorry. It’s entirely my fault, so please punish me and I’d like you to continue to support the Justice Party,” Roh said in a note addressed to party members. He said he accepted 40 million won ($36,260) in 2016, but without granting any political favours in return.
South Korean media reported that Roh wrote two other suicide notes to his family but their contents weren’t made public.
Roh faced an investigation over an allegation that he received money from an associate of an influential blogger jailed in an online opinion-rigging scandal. The allegation tarnished the clean and reform-minded image of Roh, a former labour activist who has been a symbol for progressives in South Korea.
Roh’s death triggered an outpouring of sympathy from many South Koreans.
President Moon Jae-in said his “heart really aches” over “the sad news” of Roh’s death. The independent counsel investigating the rigging scandal, Huh Ik-bum, told a televised briefing that he felt distressed by the “tragic news” of Roh’s death. Huh said he respects Roh and will pray for his soul.
South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates among developed countries. A string of business executives, K-pop stars and other celebrities have killed themselves in recent years.
If Roh’s death is officially determined a suicide, he would be the highest-profile politician to kill himself since former President Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death in 2009 amid a corruption scandal involving his family.