Who would have thought that the Namdaemun fire starter would be an elderly man in his 70s? Well, the man confessed to the authorities that he set the historic landmark ablaze on Sunday night.
When police raided the man’s home late Monday, they discovered a bag similar to the one describe by witnesses, a bottle of paint thinner and a ladder.
Police apprehended the suspect, whose last name is Chae, on suspicions of setting fire to Namdaemun.
Apparently, Chae has committed arson before (!) when he set ablaze a section of the former royal palace, Changgyeong in April 2006. At that time, the old man was livid about the alleged wrong handling of compensation for his land, which was claimed for a housing development project.
A letter written by Chae was confiscated by police on Monday. Apparently, he set the fire to Korea’s National Treasure No. 1 because he wanted to attract attention to the unsettled compensation for his land.
The landmark, officially called Sungnyemun, or “gate of revering decorum” was the southern gate of the walls surrounding Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It stood tall through the years: from the Japanese invasions in the 16th century to the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Today, because of an old man’s dissatisfaction with the system, all that’s left of the nation’s historic landmark is rubble.