Man threatens immolation inside Ramada Hotel

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Man threatens immolation inside Ramada Hotel

A hostess bar owner threatened to commit suicide by setting a mighty fire in a guest room in the Ramada Seoul Hotel in the posh Gangnam District on Tuesday evening, and police scrambled to stop him for 11 hours.

Around 6 p.m. Tuesday, police were told that the strong smell of gasoline was coming from a seventh floor guest room in the hotel in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul.

A 49-year-old man surnamed Park, whose hostess bar in the hotel’s basement had been shut temporarily on grounds of being a den of prostitution, poured 20 liters of gasoline around the hotel room and threatened to set himself on fire unless he was taken to meet Moon Byung-wook, chairman of the Ramada Group, formerly called the Sun and Moon Group.

Police negotiators communicated with Park via the phone in the room and cellphone, trying to persuade him to turn himself in.

Nearly 200 hotel guests and staff were evacuated from the building. Around 100 firefighters were on standby along with 22 fire trucks, and roads were blocked off to prepare for an emergency scenario.

A conflagration was averted when Park finally turned himself in yesterday around 4:50 a.m. He was arrested by police for obstructing the hotel’s business and fire code violations.

According to police, Park managed a hostess bar in the basement of the hotel between 2005 and May 2012, when he was accused of recruiting prostitutes and was forced to suspend business for two months.

Park continued to run the business even after the lease with the hotel ended in 2012, but he reportedly had difficulty meeting the monthly rent. He eventually became embroiled in an eviction lawsuit against the hotel, and in February, the court ruled against Park.

Ramada Hotel was involved in a crackdown on prostitution from 2005 to 2012, and in January, Chairman Moon was charged with running a prostitution business that made 7 billion won ($6.9 million) in profit.

In the suit against Moon, Park had been accused of being an accomplice to Moon in running the prostitution business, which took place in his hostess bar and in guest rooms upstairs. He claimed he was not involved and was merely a tenant of the hotel.

Park told police yesterday that the hotel management told him that if he accepted the court ruling in February, it would pay him compensation and take care of his employees’ overdue wages, “but they did not keep their promise.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]




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