Heroes who fought blaze on subway are honored

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Heroes who fought blaze on subway are honored


Kwon Sun-jung, left, and Lee Chang-yeong were given Brave Citizen Awards by the National Emergency Management Agency Monday. By Byun Sun-goo

Yang Jong-hwan, an attendant at Maebong Station on line No. 3 of the Seoul subway system, was working the morning of May 27 when he heard that a fire had broken out in a car that had just left his station.

It was immediately clear that it was a case of arson. Yang instantly feared a repeat of the Daegu subway disaster of 2003, in which 192 people were killed. That was arson too.

In the incident in May, a 71-year-old man surnamed Cho set fire to a subway car seat using paint thinner as the train pulled into Dogok Station in Gangnam District, southern Seoul.

“Cho also had four bottles of butane gas in his bag,” said Yang. “Firefighters and emergency workers were able to swiftly extinguish the fire when the subway arrived at Dogok Station - but only because two men controlled the initial blaze.”

Those two men were acknowledged Monday by the National Emergency Management Agency, which gave them Brave Citizen Awards.

Kwon Sun-jung, a 46-year-old subway employee, and Lee Chang-yeong, a 75-year-old technical advisor for a company dealing with electrical installation and safety for buildings, were both on the subway car when Cho started the fire. CCTV footage showed Kwon and Lee putting out the flames using a fire extinguisher.

Cho fled the scene as soon as the train doors opened but was apprehended in 50 minutes.

Cho is awaiting trial. His full name has not been disclosed.

The awards, which began last year, are granted to people who significantly contribute to minimizing death or destruction at scenes of disasters, according to the agency. Lee was the fifth awardee and Kwon the sixth.

“Although I’ve worked on fire prevention my whole life, I never thought I’d personally extinguish a fire,” Lee said at the award ceremony Monday. “I kept my composure and solely thought of the people’s lives in my hands.”

“Every day, five million people commute by subway,” said Lee. “Tragic disasters can be prevented if we keep an extra eye on safety.”

BY LEE SUNG-EUN AND JEONG JONG-MOON [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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