Ex-husband immolates self in office, 3 die in fire

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Ex-husband immolates self in office, 3 die in fire

A 48-year-old man set himself on fire on Monday in his ex-wife’s office in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, killing three of her co-workers and himself.

According to Gangnam Police, the man visited the third floor office where his ex-wife worked with 50 colleagues and said, at 4:45 p.m., “Bring Miss Shin [his ex-wife] to me, or I will set a fire here and kill myself and everybody.”

His ex-wife did not appear, and eight minutes later, the man poured paint thinner on himself and set himself on fire with a lighter.

“Because of the thinner, flames spread quickly through the office,” Seoul Gangnam police said yesterday at press conference. “As the man burned, he blocked the only emergency exit in the office, so workers couldn’t escape.”

The police added that the five-story office building didn’t have sprinklers and the fire burned 80 square meters (861 square feet) of office space in two minutes.

“We will investigate whether the building should have had sprinklers,” the police said.

The man died and two workers died of smoke inhalation on the spot, according to police. Another died in the hospital. 25 people suffered burns or smoke injuries. The ex-wife was reported to be alive.

Nam Ki-hyeong, a 40-year-old employee working in the neighborhood, climbed a firefighter’s ladder and saved three people as firefighters took stairs and prepared to solve the situation.

Nam climbed the ladder without any safety equipment while firefighters were preparing their equipment.

He broke the exterior window of the building with a fire extinguisher and rescued three workers trapped in smoke. Nam received burns and suffered from smoke inhalation.

“When most of firefighters were running up the stairs in the building, Nam took the ladder to get to the burning office,” said an official at the Gangnam Fire Station.

Firefighters were able to control the fire by 5:19 p.m.

Police said the man who set himself on fire had no job and had assaulted his ex-wife during 30 years of married life. The couple was divorced in 2007.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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