Abused guard sets himself on fire

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Abused guard sets himself on fire

A security guard at an apartment in one of Seoul’s poshest neighborhoods attempted suicide Tuesday after what coworkers say was constant mistreatment by residents.

The security agent, identified by the surname Lee, tried to immolate himself Tuesday morning in an automobile parked at his workplace, Shin Hyundai Apartment, in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul. The car belonged to one of the residents, according to a briefing by the Gangnam Police Precinct on Friday.

Lee, 53, doused his body with paint thinner and then ignited himself with his cigarette lighter. A resident who witnessed the act immediately called the police, and other security guards at the apartment complex subdued the flames with fire extinguishers, authorities added.

Lee was transported to a nearby hospital and is being treated in an intensive care unit for third-degree burns. The injuries are not life-threatening, police said.

“There may be several reasons behind the suicide attempt,” an officer from the Gangnam Police Precinct said. “We’re exploring possibilities including personal insults by residents.”

A suicide note found in Lee’s backpack read, “Darling, the only person that I love in this entire world is you. Darling, don’t look for me. I’m leaving this world. My sons, I’m sorry.”

Other guards said Lee was insulted by a resident right before the incident last week, which they stressed occurs often at the apartment complex. Residents verbally abuse them for temporarily leaving the security office, they said, and some throw spoiled food at them and tell the guards to eat it.

In 2010, a security guard named Lee, 65, leaped to his death from the roof of an apartment complex in which he worked. In a suicide note, he said he hoped other agents wouldn’t suffer the same verbal and physical violence he had.

A court ordered one resident of the building to pay 18 million won (about $17,000) to Lee’s bereaved family. But critics say the government doesn’t do enough to protect blue-collar workers like security guards, who normally work 24 hours on alternate days and earn from 1 million to 1.5 million won per month.

A recent study conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea showed that cases of physical and verbal abuse reported by security agents rise each year; 46 such cases were filed in 2010, 74 in 2011, 126 in 2012, 194 in 2013 and 276 as of August this year.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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