Man sets fire to gov’t building before fatal plunge

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Man sets fire to gov’t building before fatal plunge

An elderly man set fire to an office of the Central Government Complex in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, then jumped out the window and died from the injuries he sustained from the fall.

The Jongno Police Precinct said a 61-year-old man surnamed Kim started a fire yesterday at 1:33 p.m. on the 18th floor of the Central Government Complex, where the Division of Educational Information Planning under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is located.

Allegedly, Kim broke into the office around 1:15 p.m. through the back entrance of the government complex. The police said he carried a can of gasoline in a black backpack and doused documents and desks in the office with it.

The fire was caught six minutes later by officials in the Education Ministry who put out the flames with fire extinguishers after some documents, desks and chairs were damaged.

“I saw the flames shooting out from the desks when I turned around after hearing a noise,” Seo Hye-sook, an official of the Educational Information Planning Division who witnessed the incident told the JoongAng Ilbo. “As flames flared up, the man yelled at us to get out of the office then approached the window. I went out to get a fire extinguisher and the others called 119. When I came back with my colleagues, he was gone.”

Kim was taken immediately by ambulance to Kangbuk Samsung Medical Center in Jongno District, central Seoul, but died. Kim had an ID card, which only contained his photo and name, when he was found, but the police assumed that the ID is fake. It didn’t say what office he belonged to or have the mugunghwa (national flower) pattern, which must be engraved onto every government-issued ID.

The police said there are four electronic gates called “speed gates” that employees must access with their ID card. One of the four was left open and the sensor was deactivated. The police said the building usually opens one gate with the sensor turned off for convenience but security guards check people’s ID. The police said Kim used the deactivated gate and showed his ID to security guards.

There was no suicide note, but medicine from a psychiatric hospital in Bundang, Gyeonggi, was found in his backpack. Kim is assumed to be unemployed and living alone in Suji, southern Gyeonggi.


By Song Ji-young, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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