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Namdaemun arsonist: ‘The government has never listened to my grievances’

The 70-year-old Namdaemun arsonist, who is being held for setting fire to the 600-year-old Namdaemun or South Gate on Sunday night, is a repeat offender.

Investigators said Chae, who was given a suspended sentence for setting fire to the Munjeongjeon Hall in Changgyeong Palace in April 2006, confessed to burning down the historic structure.

Fire starter: Chae (in cap) confessed to the crime

The septuagenarian’s initial target was Jongmyo, a Confucian shrine dedicated to memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Chosun Dynasty. But the excellent security surrounding the area prevented Chae from carrying out his plan. Thus, he chose Namdaemun after figuring out that the other alternative of setting fire to public transportation such as trains would cause casualties.

A lawbreaker with a conscience? Whoa.

According to the police, this was how Chae burnt Namdaemun down:

  1. 70-year-old climbs the western sloping wall of the ancient city gate at 8.45pm
  2. Using an aluminium ladder, he breaks into the 2nd floor of the gate
  3. He pries open one of three 1.5-litre plastic bottles of paint thinner
  4. Pours out the content onto the floor and
  5. (With an evil laugh, perhaps?) Sets it ablaze with a disposable lighter

Chae admitted that he committed the arson to attract public attention to his outrage at the insufficient compensation he received from the government when it claimed his land for redevelopment in 1997.

In a letter Chae wrote, he said: “I have filed several petitions concerning wrongdoings against me, but the government has never listened to my grievances.”

He also called for “judges who always take sides with conglomerates” to be “got rid of,” and insisted that he was falsely charged with the Changgyeong Palace arson. He claimed that he just happened to be near the site of the fire at that time.

He added: “(Lawyers) told me several times to make false confessions. The government is killing the underprivileged. I feel aggrieved and victimised.”

Up in flames: A look at Namdaemun

Now, experts are concerned that this latest high-profile crime will encourage copycats.

Lee Yoon-ho, a professor at the Police Administration Department of Dongguk University, said: “Arson can be easily used by anybody as a weapon to express anger, given that it’s easy to commit anytime and anywhere, requires no special technology or equipment, and it’s easy to destroy evidence.

“Arson should be treated more harshly than violent crime given how common recidivism and copycat crimes are,” he added.

Source: Digital Chosunilbo
Pics credit: The Korea Times

Related:
Septuagenarian is Namdaemun arsonist
Korea’s National Treasure No. 1 destroyed by fire

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5 Comments  comments 

5 Responses

  1. blinkable

    recently I actually watched the KBSWorld News that aired this story cause I remembered reading it from here ;) It was 15 minutes long and the news higlighted how the firemen couldnt control the fire due to the structure of the building and they went very technical about it O_o

  2. PrincelyLuna

    it’s the same everywhere … wait for something bad to happen then everything will come out in the open or … when the election is around the corner, then years of grievances will suddenly be ‘heard’ …

    and dishonest and corrupt lawyers and judges are also everywhere too … they become filthy rich and live in luxury at the expense of those who put their trust in them.

    it’s sad that that helpless old man had to resort to such drastic action to higlight the injustice done against him.

  3. kpop-rubba

    I do believe he has a valid argument! The under privileged voices are so often silenced and unheard by those with power and money BUT This was an incredibly reckless way to draw attention to these issues. None the less, it was an easy and convenient way…. He should have tried the power of solidarity! Destruction solves no problem but only creates more…

  4. Anonymous

    i do feel sad for the burning of this historical feature, however…i feel for the old man. how else is he supposed to be heard? he’s had these grievences for a long time and nothing has been done and everyone just wants to sweep him under the rug. its a pity that he has had to do something like this to be noticed…but still his grievances are not being heard which kinda makes it a total waste of time. i just hope that he will be heard out and not just swept back under the rug!!

  5. Danny Foo

    Hmm…so to get their attention and to listen to him, he burns the palace. -____-

    Just go burn the governor’s or minister’s house instead then. Leave the age old historical building alone.

    Criminals really no common sense wan. LOL!

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