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Male rights activist jumps off bridge after pleading for donation


SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- A search continued into the night Friday for a male rights activist who jumped off a bridge into the Han River in Seoul after declaring that he will commit suicide if he failed to raise funds for his financially troubled organization, police said.

Sung Jae-gi, 45, jumped off the Mapo Bridge in western Seoul shortly after 3 p.m. Photographs soon appeared on Sung's Twitter showing him falling down after letting go of the outer side of the bridge. The photos also showed three other men holding cameras and camcoders. One of them was a camera crew member from the national broadcaster, KBS.

Police said the search may be halted until daybreak.

Sung leads a male rights group, called "Man of Korea," that he launched in January 2008. A declared anti-feminist, he has led a campaign against South Korean laws which he believed are unfairly favorable to women and advocated equal treatment of men. One of his centerpiece campaign was for abolishing the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, a government agency that handles women's issues.

He has recently filed a court injunction to stop distribution of a girl group's music video he said was derogatory to soldiers who are mostly male.

He ran his group solely on private donations. It wasn't clear how many members or donors the group has.

Through his group's Web site on Thursday, Sung pleaded for a "loan" of 100 million won (US$89,900) to pay off debts incurred by his group and said he would jump off a Han River bridge on Friday if his plea was ignored.

Police said they had tried in vain to talk to Sung on Thursday to dissuade him from taking any extreme action.

Debate heated up online after photographs of Sung moments before he jumped into the river surfaced on his Twitter. Debate also started about the apparent by-standers who did not stop Sung.

KBS defended its camera crew who was at the scene, saying in a statement that they called for help twice, just before and immediately after Sung jumped.

"There were two men there, but they were not stopping Sung," the broadcaster said. "The photos show what was happening when the camera crew arrived, and there wasn't enough time for the crew to try to save him."

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