Ready to rebuild


Workers rehearse yesterday the groundbreaking ceremony to begin reconstruction of Sungnyemun. Two years after arson destroyed the country’s No. 1 national treasure, restoration of the gate will begin at the site in central Seoul today. By Kang Jung-hyun

At approximately 8:50 p.m. on Sunday, February 10, 2008, a fire broke out and severely damaged the wooden structure at the top of the gate. By late Sunday night, firefighters said they believed that they had contained the fire. Firefighters were instructed by officials not to be aggressive in fighting the fire out of fear that the structure would be damaged by the effort itself.

The fire roared out of control again after midnight and destroyed the structure, despite the effort of more than 360 firefighters.There were no injuries reported.

The fire itself was set when Chae Jong-gi arrived at Namdaemun around 8:35 p.m. on Sunday carrying an aluminum ladder, three 1.5 liter bottles of paint thinner, and two cigarette lighters. He climbed up the western wall of the gate with the ladder, used the ladder to enter the tower, and walked up to the second floor. Chae sprinkled the floor with the paint thinner and lit the fire.

A 69-year-old man identified as Chae Jong-gi was arrested on suspicion of arson and then later confessed to the crime 30 minutes after his arrest.

Police say that Mr. Chae was upset about not having been paid in full for land he had sold to developers.

It’s been two years since I heard about the news on TV. But I thought the reconstruction already begin since a year ago?

My friend who works in Korea is mad because of the arsonist, she said “Bener-bener kurang kerjaan yang bakar Namdaemun sampe kayak gitu?!” [The person who set fire’s is really, really had too much free time/lunatic].

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