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article imageMan Arrested for Burning Down South Korean National Monument

By Emily January     Feb 12, 2008 in World
Police in South Korea have arrested a 69-year-old man for burning down a 600-year-old gate. The man confessed to burning down the monument, which has been designated as the country’s number one treasure.
The Namdaemun, or “Great South Gate,” was completely charred. The country is now mourning the loss of a symbol of national pride. Many South Koreans are angry and shocked by the arson. The incident is an embarrassment to the country, which some say could have been prevented by better security and firefighters.
Angry citizens are blaming politicians, bureaucrats, police, and even President Roh Moo-huyn. Others are blaming the incoming president-elect. Lee Myung-bak was the mayor of Seoul who opened the gate to the public and made it a tourist attraction.
The suspect, only known as Chae, said he had planned the fire for a while now. He was angry with the government because they did not compensate him fairly for development in his residential neighborhood.
Chae has previously been sentenced for setting fire to a palace in Seoul in 2006. He did this by climbing into the palace’s pavilion, then dousing the floor with paint thinner and setting it on fire. The sentence for that crime was suspended.
Despite Chae’s history of arson, he appears to be sorry for what he has done. He apologized to the public and his family.
The Namdaemun was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul, having stood up to invasions, colonialism, and the Korean War from 1950-53. It was ruined in six hours due to the act of one angry man and a slow government response.
The structure has been restored several times, most recently in the1960s. A Cultural Heritage Administration official said it will take three years and $21 million to rebuild the structure.
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