Namdaemun Destroyed in Fire — Arson Suspected

February 11th, 2008 · Accidents, Crimes and Scandals, Photos · 17 comments

The gate at Namdaemun, which is National Treasure #1, has been destroyed by fire, and early reports raise suspicions that it was arson. I’ve collected here a number of links to image galleries and videos.

Update: I’ve also translated two articles about Korean reactions to the disaster. Last year one Korean citizen warned of the risk of arson in Namdaemun. Also incoming president Lee Myung-bak’s advisors are talking about the fire.

The Chosun Ilbo has photos of the firefighting effort.

There are dramatic photos of the ruined remains here and here. Aerial views are in this gallery.

Photos of the crowd reaction are in this gallery.

The clean-up effort has already begun.

The Chosun also put together a few old photos of the gate here. The oldest is from 1910; the others of reconstructions in 1963 and 1983.
For video of the fire you can scroll to the bottom of this Chosun Ilbo report. There are three more videos in this report.

17 comments

  • Somebody was really messed up to do that.

    Tish · February 11th, 2008 at 11:36 AM

  • back home that wouldn’t surprise me but here? ._.

    *~*cheonsa*~* · February 11th, 2008 at 1:37 PM

  • Great roundup – thanks!

    Obviously there’ll be lots of media coverage on this story – hopefully you can give us another summary in a few days?

    Anonymous · February 11th, 2008 at 2:37 PM

  • […] Treasure Namdaemun was destroyed in fire last night. Korea Beat collects local news source on this suspected arson. Share […]

    Global Voices Online » South Korea: Namdaemun Destroyed in Fire · February 11th, 2008 at 4:21 PM

  • It’s a sad accident, Korean memory has damned..

    Old Boy · February 11th, 2008 at 5:42 PM

  • I was only passing by the t.v. so I am not sure the details but I did hear that on the same day in England and in the U.S., there were fires at important places. In England (?), it was a landmark (?) and in Tennessee, it was a mosque.

    Sounds odd and suspicious. I wonder if these were related and if so why that particular day? Is it a holy day for Muslims (the mosque) or is it a historical day that might make these places related and targets?

    I can only say that I feel devastated about this and wonder if there is any way to rebuild it to the specifications of the original? It was such a beautiful and distinct landmark. Even if it is rebuilt, it won’t be as significant due to the fact that it is not the original.

    Tish · February 12th, 2008 at 1:45 AM

  • “Sounds odd and suspicious. I wonder if these were related and if so why that particular day? Is it a holy day for Muslims (the mosque) or is it a historical day that might make these places related and targets?”

    Tish, grow up…

    arirang · February 12th, 2008 at 9:02 AM

  • Perhaps it was simply another student who lost their cell phone and thought if they set fire, everything but their “hand phone” would be gone ;P

    A tragedy, if an accident, and evil if done on purpose.

    hitest · February 12th, 2008 at 10:28 AM

  • Arirang, could you please elaborate on your comment, “Tish, grow up…” I do not understand what you mean by that. I resent the fact that you would be rude in your response that way. Also, I see others on this website with the same rudeness.

    I am not against people disagreeing with me although it may hurt at first when they do since I am very sensitive. But I try to be open-minded and I know that I do not know everything and can be wrong or mislead.

    So, please do tell me what you meant. Thank you.

    Tish · February 12th, 2008 at 10:49 AM

  • It was actually a day before Japan’s National Foundation Day and the last day of the Lunar New Year holidays. There were rumors among Japanese Internet groups that the arsner may be a right-wing Japanese terrorist but the police arrested a 70 year-old Korean man as the suspect.

    This man apparently had problems with authorities over eviction compensation for his home and set fire on another palace in 2006 and was under probation.

    spark · February 12th, 2008 at 11:06 AM

  • Thanks :D

    Tish · February 13th, 2008 at 5:20 AM

  • You can read my other responses to this on related articles on this website to understand more of what I was thinking. However, in reference to the “grow up” statement above:

    I was thinking wider scale partly because even criminals seem to avoid such valuable places when they do such things. It’s as if even they can appreciate how horrible it would be to destroy them.

    The destruction of such beautiful and valuable places is usually done by an organization or government looking to do serious damage and make a big statement. Other than that, only seriously mentally ill people who do not realize what they are doing or cannot control what they are doing do things like that.

    Though I could be wrong or mislead as stated.

    Tish · February 14th, 2008 at 12:44 AM

  • Well, South Korea has a recent history of mentally unstable people setting fire to historic properties. I suppose the equivalent in western countries is crazy people who go to museums to slash or deface paintings.

    Korea Beat · February 14th, 2008 at 11:59 AM

  • Or worse, major school or work shootings.

    Tish · February 15th, 2008 at 2:59 AM

  • […] at a sampling of the outpouring of grief and anger through internet by netizens in Korea over the fire at the Namdaemun gate (also called Sungnyemun). “How could they have been unable to guard Sungnyemun, the number […]

    Netizens on Namdaemun Fire : Korea Beat · February 19th, 2008 at 12:09 PM

  • […] bit more than one year after the centuries-old iconic gate was destroyed by arson the Cultural Heritage Administration placed it back on public display, albeit with reconstruction […]

    Korea Beat › Namdaemun Re-Opened to the Public · February 11th, 2009 at 10:47 AM

  • […] bit more than one year after the centuries-old iconic gate was destroyed by arson the Cultural Heritage Administration placed it back on public display, albeit with reconstruction […]

    Korea Beat » Blog Archive » Namdaemun Re-Opened to the Public · March 30th, 2013 at 4:14 PM

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